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What is Mindful Learning?

In What is Mindful Learning, Karen Pryor brings us together with her longtime friend, John Ledger. In this third installment of their Relationship workshop, Ledger uncovers the secrets of mindful learning, a simple and powerful approach to improving relationships. Drawing from his own experiences as a relationship coach, he shares the practical steps you can take to create meaningful relationships. In so doing, he challenges you to think about what you’re doing when you get into conflicts.

In business, sports, or at home, certain antiquated and oft-repeated misconceptions hobble our informal learning. For example, the notion that learning must be “formal” and “polished” somehow implies that there is something valuable and important that we must work toward in order to accomplish our goals. What is mindful learning reminds us that learning doesn’t have to be refined or formal; it can be casual, simple, and genuinely beneficial. It can be an ongoing process that helps students discover their full potential. It can be a tool for transforming learning experiences into lifelong skills.

To explore what is mindful learning, John Ledger refers to two modes of learning: conscious and unconscious. Conscious learning is what most of us do every day, when we are actively engaged in whatever is going on around us. Unconscious learning happens when our minds are inactive and our actions are driven by what we want to achieve. According to Ledger, during conscious learning, “you become aware of what is happening in your world, and you also become aware of what is not happening.” During this moment, “there is no need to learn anything because everything is already clear.” But when we drift into unconscious learning, we can sometimes miss opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

One of the primary purposes of what is mindful learning is to facilitate learning by providing a structure for what is mindful and what is involuntary. This is a valuable concept, because it enables us to gain perspective on how we should relate our actions to what we want. In learning, for instance, we have to ask ourselves what is mindful learning about the act of reading. We have to ask ourselves what is mindful about reading in the classroom or the college library, for example, as opposed to the act of passively reading a chapter of a book. This difference has real, measurable consequences.

For instance, as students gain insight into what is mindful about reading, they can begin to take steps that foster reading as a profoundly personal experience, rather than as an activity that is performed to pass a test or a competition. This type of learning may encourage students to set aside their own desires and goals, in order to pursue a vision of what is reading-in-the-classroom being realized. Or students may gain insight about the power of an inner vision to support the growth and health of their entire self. Regardless of whether one’s learning mode is primarily goal-oriented or primarily reflective, they will discover that enhancing their inner vision will enhance how they learn and work. In competitive exams students who approach learning consciously as mindful learners will discover that they will not only improve their comprehension and retention, but will also discover new ways to enhance the learning experience.

Another important difference is that students who choose what is mindful learning will be in a significantly more relaxed state of mind when they are undertaking a course of study that is in class or on a computer. During what is sometimes described as a high stress exam environment, students may feel a great deal of tension. They may also be anxious, worried about what is coming, or even scared about what is going to happen when they are taking their competitive exams. When they are engaged in what is called mindfulness, they are calm and focused. This significantly lessens the tension that characterizes studying for a competitive examination.

Further, students who learn what is mindful learn far better than students who merely concentrate on what is a target or think about what is relevant. The tension and anxiety that characterizes studying for competitive exams is greatly reduced when one is fully engaged in what is called mindfulness. As a matter of fact, students will often find that their performance on the diagnostic quiz is better than they remember. This is because as they focus fully on what is mindful, they are fully present and pay full attention to what is taking place. One of the biggest reasons for students’ performance on a battery of tests is that they forget to be present and do what is a target. They do not pay attention when what is taking place is irrelevant to what they are studying.

For college credit or advancement purposes, it would behoove a student to engage in what is mindful learning if they want to maximize their learning opportunities for coursework, tests, exams, and other requirements. In the process of what is commonly called “cheap online college courses,” students will gain valuable insight into what is mindful learning, as well as other valuable ways to learn that they can put to use in their future education endeavors. This is especially important considering the rising costs of college. A full contingent of the United States Senate recently called for an end to what is called “cheap online college courses,” claiming that these courses provided by unaccredited or unverified sources lack rigor and value and do not prepare students for real life situations.

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