Habits of Successful Students

Last week I published an article for the Taylor Study Method titled ‘10 Steps to Learning Anything Twice as Quick‘. Here are some snippets from the article.

Passive vs. Active Learning

“Passive learning is when you simply read and re-read material, or listen to it on audio over and over again. People engage in this type of passive learning on the assumption that repeated exposure to material will result in learning that material. By contrast, active learning is when you create flashcards, summary sheets, take practice tests, set yourself challenges, and constantly dig deeper into elements you are having trouble understanding. Active learning may require more initial effort, but in the long run it could save you hundreds of hours.”

Don’t Trust in Google

“When it comes to learning, it’s easy to think that everything we need can be found on Google. However, to truly master a field of knowledge and sediment it in your long-term memory, you need to do more than simply memorize isolated facts. Rather, you need a foundation of knowledge that can become a basis for conceptual thinking, contextual reasoning, and the ability to for schemas out of that knowledge. All of this requires a deep familiarity with your subject that cannot be achieved by simply Googling what you need to know.”

Take Baby Steps

“Baby steps are especially important when a person is trying to learn material or master a field of study. Through cramming and massed practice, anyone can learn something quickly. However, to truly master a field, one needs to study it consistently over time—little and often. Baby steps lend themselves to this type of necessary consistency. Baby steps also help to shift the focus to small wins that can accumulate over time to help you reach larger goals.”

Self-Monitor Towards SMART Goals

“Self-monitoring is especially important in the learning process. Whatever you are trying to learn, whether it’s a foreign language or the material you need to know for the psychology licensure exam, you should break your goals into manageable steps and have a clear way of monitoring your progress in each of these steps. Self-monitoring enables a person to continually adjust their goals so that they can be SMART. A goal that is SMART is one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.”

To read the entire article, click on the link below:

 ‘10 Steps to Learning Anything Twice as Quick

Free Lesson on Mindfulness in the Classroom

Here is a FREE interactive lesson from the Masters course I wrote, which is about to launch at Central Michigan University, Argosy University, Antioch University, Benedictine University and Valparaiso University. This course is for the professional development of teachers, who can gain graduate credits when they enroll to take it. This free interactive lesson offers an overview of the research that prompted me to write the course.

Gratitude as a Way of Seeing

Complaining is one of those things we do without even thinking about it. Some researchers have suggested that during an average conversation we complain to each other about once a minute.

From a health perspective, this should be concerning. When we complain, stress hormones are released that harm healthy neural connections in the brain. This also occurs when we aren’t actually complaining ourselves but are exposed to someone else grumbling.

In his book Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and LifeTrevor G Blake shared some Stanford studies showing that being exposed to 30 minutes of complaining each day physically damages the brain by peeling back neurons from the hippocampus (the part of the brain used for problem solving and higher cognitive functions). Over time this can actually lead to the hippocampus shrinking, resulting in decline in memory and adaptability.

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Looking Unto Jesus

In response to the article I wrote for Touchstone Magazine earlier this year, “The Cross of Least Resistance: Our Path to Holiness Runs Straight Through Calvary“, I have had readers write to me saying that struggle is NOT a good thing in the Christian life. You see, in that article I criticized the pervasive notion that when the Holy Spirit moves in someone’s heart they are always enabled to achieve complete victory over sin, where “victory” is taken to mean the absence of protracted struggle, frustration, confusion and occasional setbacks. According to the line of thinking I was attacking, the presence of difficulty is a sign that God’s life-giving power is not operative within us.

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How to Practice Gratitude Behind Bars

It had been a particularly unpleasant day at the office for Ranald.

It was only after being promoted to management six months earlier that Ranald realized how stressful his dream job actually was. Sure, it was nice to be getting a larger pay check and finally to pay off some debts. However, managing a team of people who insisted on being disorganized was taking its toll. Sometimes Ranald looked back wistfully on the days before he was put in charge of the entire department.

These were some of the thoughts going through Ranald’s mind as he drove home one Friday evening. He wanted nothing more than to just go home, switch on the TV and tune out. He knew that wouldn’t be possible. His wife and kids would have demands. They always did. The children would need help with homework, his teenage daughter would need to talk about her day, and his wife would expect his undivided attention as she shared about her own struggles.

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New Course, ‘Mindfulness in the 21st century Classroom’, is Ready to Launch

Update: since writing the post below, all spots in the first run of the course, taught by John Adams, are now full. Interested parties can register for the second run beginning December 4th and taught by Julie Gold.

Teachers wishing to qualify for pay increases by gaining graduate level credits now have the perfect opportunity. On September 25th, the Idaho-based education company, The Connecting Link, is launching their online course “Mindfulness in the 21st century Classroom” for the professional development of teachers. This Masters level course is being taught by educational psychologist John Adams and is being accredited through Argosy University, Antioch University, Benedictine University, Valparaiso University and Central Michigan University. It is designed to give educators at all levels an overview of recent research on mindfulness practices. Even better, the course provides step by step guidance on how to integrate mindfulness practices into the classroom.

If you’re interested, here are some links you may want to check out:

  • For a free lesson, drawn from the material of the course, see ‘Free Mindfulness Lesson for Teachers!
  • For a detailed syllabus of the course, visit TCL’s ‘Online Participant Syllabus‘.
  • To learn more about why mindfulness is important for teachers and how it’s being used in the classroom, see my article ‘Mindfulness: From Ancient Wisdom to Modern Classroom.’
  • To learn more about John Adams, the instructor of this course, click here.
  • To register a place in the upcoming course, click here. (Right now TCL is running a “Back to School Savings” special of $100 off!)
  • For a promotional flier advertising the course and giving details about the special savings, click here.

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The Role of Stillness in Education

When our brains become overloaded with too much information, or when our working memory is compromised by being exposed to too many distractions, there are certain mental functions that stop working as well. According to the research (which I have shared here and here), some of the cognitive functions that become diminished when we are bombarded with too much information include,

  • conceptual and contextual thinking;
  • the ability to grasp over-arching narratives of meaning (the big picture);
  • the ability to make unexpected connections between different ideas and facts;
  • the ability to put knowledge into schemas.

In short, scientists are finding that too much information can cause our brains to become lost in a sea of particulars without the ability to connect these particulars into larger structures of understanding. Other functions to be shut down include the ability to be attentive to others, to empathize, and the ability to understand things from another person’s point of view.

In order for these higher cognitive functions to work, the brain needs lots of time during the day when we are at rest, when we are quiet, and when we can focus on specific mental, imaginative or interpersonal tasks against a backdrop of stillness.

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The First Steps Towards an Appreciation of Liberal Arts

From my Touchstone article ‘More than Schooling: The Perils of Pragmatism in Christian Attitudes Toward the Liberal Arts

Appreciating that some artifacts are good in themselves, and not merely because of what they do for us, is the first step towards a proper appropriation of the liberal arts. The best argument for teaching children to love Aeschylus, Shakespeare, and Hopkins is simply that these authors wrote things that are beautiful. Just as the best reason for smelling a rose is that it has a lovely fragrance, so the best reason for learning Latin is that Virgil’s Aeneid is beautiful. Again, the template for this approach is creation itself.

Christian worldview education is in danger of being hijacked by pragmatists who think that non-utilitarian approaches somehow depart from the imperative to bring all things under Christ. This is ironic since the Bible itself reveals a better way….

The exclusively pragmatic approach does a particularly great disservice to the teaching of literature since it orients us to adopt a didactic and utilitarian approach to texts. We may start to think that the value of a text lies in the worldview lessons we are able to draw out of it and completely overlook the aesthetic considerations. Many, for instance, have the idea that the primary purpose of learning Shakespeare is to understand allusions and figures of speech, or that memorizing poems is mainly good as an exercise to develop memory skills, or that the value of learning Latin is to understand word origins, and so forth. The idea that learning Virgil in the original Latin has a value not tied to any practical benefit strikes them as odd.

When students are trained to think in strictly pragmatic ways, they will find it difficult to enjoy, say, a Shakespeare play if they can’t derive a specific worldview lesson from it. They may become so over-active in finding worldview lessons that they discern some Shakespeare never intended. How much better it would be to get them to enjoy Shakespeare plays simply for their masterly use of language and compelling plots and characters. How much better for students to come to love things that are noble and praiseworthy even when they do not have a specific use. As Flannery O’Connor put it in Mystery and Manners, “The fact is, people don’t know what they are expected to do with a novel, believing, as so many do, that art must be utilitarian, that it must do something, rather than be something.”

Zwingli and the Visible vs. Invisible Dualism

It is interesting that for Zwingli, “spiritual” worship was synonymous with non-physical worship, while “purity” was equivalent with simplicity. Worship in Zwingli’s Zurich not only involved a ban on images, but also music, decoration and liturgical fragrance. In fact, during Zwingli’s first four years in the city, few themes featured as prominently as that of “invented external worship.” There was more at stake here than merely Zwingli’s concern to uphold the integrity of the Second Commandment: the root of his antipathy to material paraphernalia and external ceremony was that such practices were visible. For Zwingli the visible was the province of unbelief, while the invisible was the realm of faith. God, who is unseen, cannot be approached through the visible material of the created world, and it is a sign of spiritual immaturity for worshipers to be dependent on created things. Jealous to preserve God’s glory, Zwingli had sought to organize the relations between the spiritual and the material in a way that ensured the heavenly would never be mediated through the earthly. The more God could be seen to work independent of instrumentality, the greater God’s sovereignty was thought to be. Thus, in order for God to be fully magnified in all His transcendence, the spiritual potency of creation had to be either denied or heavily qualified; for God to have all the glory, creation must have none; to trust in God involved an inverse distrust in the elements of creation. His deep distrust of instrumental causality led Zwingli to seek to make the sacraments declarative rather than instrumental. He was, in the words of Gerrish, “reluctant to acknowledge any other causality than that of God, the first cause. Hence, the very notion of sacramental causality was offensive to him. It seems to detract from the immediacy of the divine activity if one assigns even an instrumental function to the creaturely elements of water, bread, and wine. Signs, for Zwingli, are not instrumental, but indicative or declarative.” Even Zwingli’s doctrine of predestination arose from this same impulse and was the inevitable correlate to saying that God was the only active cause operative among creatures. Significantly, when Zwingli had his iconic clash with Luther at Marburg, it was the former’s affirmation of the incompatibility of spirit and matter that led him to so forcefully oppose the doctrine of real presence.