Just what is meant by this term attention?
Is it some thing which I control?
These questions, from the paper Attention by John Mason, formed the topic of our department meeting this week; here are some brief notes:
- Perhaps we can control our attention at times, but not others. There are many factors that influence whether/how we attend, and what we attend to. If it is not always controllable, what are the implications for teaching and learning?
- It is not easy to remain present, or in the moment, for long periods of time; it takes energy. Could we be easier on ourselves and our students by admitting: sometimes we are more able to attend than others?
- Is attention something that can be learned? Is it learned in early childhood? Can we educate children become more aware of their own attention, to gain more awareness of their awareness?
- A lack of self-awareness often arises when we are completely immersed in the present moment. This might result in what an 'emotional reaction' rather than a more 'reasoned response'.
- How should we respond as teachers when we get the sense students are not attending as we would like? What are the physical signs that students are (not) attending? How do we know if students are attending to what we would like them to? How might we direct attention?
- As teachers, we feel we can help improve students ability to attend by pausing, asking questions, reflecting, drawing attention to levels of attention.
One of the hardest things to do is to 'learn from experience' because usually attention is totally embroiled in the experiencing! Unless time for reflection is provided, learning from experience does not take place.