Being a Mindful Learner

The article, “Mindful Learning” by Ellen J. Langer talks about the difference between mindful learning and mindless learning. I definitely agree with her that mindful learners are typically more resourceful of utilizing what they learn in different applications. However, for me when I learn something new I have to be a “mindless” learner first, in order to understand the basics of what I am learning. I have to repetitively drill the new information into my memory. Once I have a grasp of the new information then I can become a mindful learner. A great example of this is that during my undergraduate as an engineering student, I had to keep doing practice problems until they are ingrained into my memory. The demanding curriculum made it very hard for me to stop and think deeper about the problems. I constantly have to memorize the concepts and apply it for the tests, quizzes, and homework. I remember that during those times it was hard for me to ask thought provoking questions in my field of study.

Once I practiced engineering in the industry and came back for my graduate degree. I had the insights to be a mindful student. I was able to relate the theory that I learned in the classroom to the applications that I have seen in the industry and vice versa. Because I have witness the same information from multiple sources, I was able to detect new subtleties that I missed in my undergraduate years. I started to have more thought provoking questions, as well as using the principles that I learned from the classroom and my job to apply it to other areas of my life. A great example of this is that I became fascinated with the culinary world. After being a mindful learner in the culinary arts, I am able to create many intricate dishes. During my experimentation, I had many “failed” dishes. With those failures, I performed a root failure caused analysis using the methods that I learned as a practicing engineer to determine why my dishes failed. From those learnings, I started to implement my understanding of heat transfer, chemical reactions, fluid mechanics, and mechanics from the classroom to achieve the results that I want. This is a prime example of how being a mindful learner allows a student to have a deeper understanding of their field of study. I take my experiences from multiple perspective and develop effective solutions in all aspects of my life.

Additionally, I Googled mindful learning and I found the graphic below. After reading each of the circles, it reminds me of a concept that I constantly try to ingrain in to my students, “active thinking.” In my class, I encourage students to ask questions, and participates in the class discussions. I put many of my students on the spot randomly as you may never know when you need to think on your feet. I encourage them to see multiple perspectives for the issues that they may be facing.






2 thoughts on “Being a Mindful Learner

  1. I agree that “mindless” reading has a place. If I had to understand theory of or the concepts behind the multiplication tables, I would not have passed second grade. Pure memorization has its place in the basics or elementary study of things; however, it does put people in a box later when they have only been taught one way to look at or understand the basics.


  2. I have observed a trend in my discipline of political science and international relations as an instructor. This trend is that the students “learn” the basics in an introductory course and they feel that they know everything. They also come into a degree program thinking that they know everything already and that they only need the degree to get a job and to be heard. It is this idea that they know everything already that gives way to mindlessness in learning. They are not interested in learning anything else because they think they know it all already. Mindlessness learning can also manifest itself as preconceived notions on topics that are then brought into the classroom, which leads to the instructor working with the students to deconstruct or “unlearn”: these preconceived notions in order to promote mindful learning.


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