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What Is the Connection between Attention and Learning?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Attention and learning are connected primarily because it is difficult for people to learn anything unless they maintain a sufficient level of focus. It is very easy for learners in a classroom environment to become distracted by extraneous stimuli or their own internal thoughts, and when this happens, they may not really be learning anything from a teacher at all. This can be an especially major issue for younger children who may have shorter attention spans, but keeping students focused on their lessons can also be a problem in adult learning environments. Some people with attention deficit disorders may have especially difficult problems paying attention during lessons, and they may need to be taught in a different way or learn special coping strategies to deal with their problems.

Most experts who study the brain agree that people can only truly focus on one thing at a time. In a learning environment, this becomes a crucial issue because if students are focused on something other than what’s being taught, they probably aren’t getting anything from the lesson. Since attention and learning are so inextricably tied, and because distraction is such a common problem in classrooms, many educational experts have invested a lot of effort into finding strategies to keep students focused.

When students are set to a task and manage to finish it before the allotted time is up, often their minds will drift or they may get involved in some other activity. Then, when it’s time for a new task, the students may have trouble getting themselves back into the right mindset for learning. For this reason, many teachers rely on various tricks to gain the attention of a classroom right before imparting some important new information. This could include simple tactics like blowing a whistle or flicking a light switch, and it could also involve a short activity that requires student participation, such as a quick question and answer session.

Another strategy that can help in overcoming issues with attention and learning is to involve students in tasks where they learn through action. For many students, it can be extremely difficult to listen to a long lecture on a subject without losing focus. They may have much more interest in class projects and other activities that allow for a more hands-on experience. For example, a science teacher may try to overhaul attention and learning issues by letting the students conduct an experiment of some kind.

Some experts believe that one of the main reasons that students have problems with attention and learning is related to simple understanding. People tend to immediately lose focus on a lecturer when they start hearing words they don’t recognize or if they’re being presented with material that wrongly assumes they have some kind of important background information. For this reason, it is considered important that teachers lay the proper groundwork before delving into something new, and some teachers actually take it a step further, often looking for some way to directly relate new material to something taught previously.

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