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How Students Can Develop a Mindset for Learning

Going to college is an exciting experience as it offers the hope of new goals being met. Everyone has a general understanding of what it means to be a student but not everyone knows what it means to learn, and this can create significant barriers along the way. Learning is a process of interacting with information received, whether it is stored or discarded, in addition to instructions received – such as those provided for the development of skill sets or completion of an assignment.

Whether it is processing information or instructions received, both of these processes are mental activities that engage the mind. Any time the mind is engaged there are additional factors that influence how that information is processed, and some of them will promote learning while others may create barriers. In addition, students may either be consciously aware of these factors or they may be internalized and part of their subconscious filtering. It is possible that students can become aware of all of these mental activities so that they can develop a mindset for learning.

Barriers to a Productive Mindset

Barriers are factors that interfere with and discourage learning, and the three most common barriers include a student’s attitude, perception, and assumptions. A student can have an attitude that is either open or closed to new ideas and knowledge. If it is a closed attitude or one that is not receptive to new information this can create a barrier to learning. A student’s perception of their environment is also a determining factor for their willingness to learn. If a student perceives other students or their instructor as being uncooperative or not supportive of their development, this can also interfere with their ability to learn. In addition, if a student holds an assumption that they are not ready for or not capable of learning, or they believe it is too difficult to accomplish, this can also create a barrier to the learning process.

Becoming an Adaptive Student

While barriers interfere with learning, what promotes learning is being adaptive and receptive. To learn means that you are able to acquire new knowledge that replaces your existing knowledge, and you learn new skills that replace or enhance existing skill sets. Being receptive is also a state of mind where you are not only willing to learn something new, you are flexible when changes occur within your environment and you take responsibility and control of your actions while working as a student. Being an adaptive student means you want to avoid stagnation as the knowledge gained today may be outdated tomorrow. The more adaptive and receptive you become as a student, the more productive your work will be as a student – and you can develop this as an ongoing state of mind. For example, if you receive information with an attitude you are willing to learn, you perceive that this is an environment that is conducive to learning, and you assume you are capable of learning, you have now paved the way for productive mindset.

Why Your Mindset Matters

Your mindset is a general disposition and you often develop it automatically and without conscious thought. What you assume influences or is influenced by your belief system. How you perceive your environment creates an attitude that is manifested through your interactions. The attitude you hold determines then your willingness to be involved in or your avoidance of involvement in the learning process. It is possible to make a conscious decision that you will have a focused mindset. As you are reading course materials and participating in class discussions, you are processing information. If you have a focused mindset you can take this information and connect with it in a way that you gain a new understanding, apply it to your life and career, or use it to develop your academic skills. This is how learning occurs without any barriers.

Mindset Development Steps

Your mindset can be adjusted at any time. Here are some questions you can use to self-check your disposition.

What do I believe about learning?

What assumptions do I hold about my involvement in the process?

Am I aware of perceptions I have about my instructors or classes?

To become proactive, you can utilize the following statements for the development of a mindset that is ready for learning.

In the future I will accept responsibility for my involvement in the learning process.

When faced with change I will be in control of my attitude and willing to adapt as needed.

When I feel challenged I will view it as an opportunity to grow.

I believe I have a capacity for continuous learning and development.

The Power of Your Focus

When you develop a focused mindset you become receptive to new information, new processes, and new skills, while minimizing resistance and potential barriers. This allows you to concentrate on the learning process without any unnecessary distractions. You will find that the power of your focus is especially important when you receive feedback as it will provide suggestions or indicate areas of development. As a student you will need to acquire new knowledge and learn new skills, and this can be challenging at times. What makes the learning process more meaningful is a mindset that has reassessed assumptions and perceptions, along with development of an attitude that is receptive and adaptive. The more focused your mindset is, the more productive your work will become and the more you will learn.

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