I was first introduced to the idea of mindfulness through an undergraduate class, Introduction to Mindfulness Practice. The class aimed to provide “an introduction to mindfulness practices to facilitate coping with stress and greater engagement with life.” Now through Contemporary Pedagogy, I see how mindfulness can apply in the classroom. As Ellen Langer defined, “mindfulness is a flexible state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present, noticing new things and sensitive to context,” as opposed to mindlessness which is a state of automation defined by the past. I am very intrigued by the idea of mindful learning, particularly because my dissertation research focuses on understanding human functional state. I define human functional state to be the ability of a human to complete a task at a moment in time, which is influenced by cognition and affect, in other words, by thoughts and emotions. Thinking about how to implement mindful learning into the classroom, I believe it is important to consider both aspects of mental state, cognition and affect. On the cognitive side, think workload and attention. How can mindfulness be used to assess cognitive overload and distraction in the classroom? I think it is important for both the instructor and the students to actively participate in this reflection of workload and attention. Being able to recognize moments of struggle, or as I would say, decreased human functional state, is the first step towards improving the situation. For example, if a student is mindful that taking notes on the computer leads to diverted attention (i.e. browsing social media) then maybe they can take the necessary steps to change their behavior (i.e. taking notes by hand instead). It’s also extremely important to be in touch with affective state. In addition to introspective reflection by the instructor and the students, I think that it is important for the instructor as the leader of the classroom to get a pulse of how the students in the class feel so that they can make adjustments where needed. In this way, the instructor has a responsibility to extend mindfulness beyond themselves and to the class as a whole. Are students extremely stressed about an upcoming deadline? Is this affecting their performance in the class or their personal health? To me, seeking the answers to these questions, in conjunction with assessing cognitive state, is key for mindful learning.
One thought on “Mindful Learning”
I would draw attention to your inclusion of both instructors and students with respect to active participation in the classroom. Johri and Olds (2011) explain that “knowledge is socially reproduced and learning occurs through participation in meaningful activities that are part of a community of practice[,] … participation which is mutually constituted through and reflects our thinking and literacy skills” (p. 160). Therefore, the classroom is a social context in which both instructors and students must be actively engaged in the teaching and learning of educational materials, thereby fostering a community of practice for the co-construction of knowledge.