Mindful Learning vs Mindless Training

When we say “learning”, we have already put it into a context that this is an open process. The ways to learn new things can be numerous. One needs to choose the one that is mostly fit him/herself. In another word, there is no such a learning methodology that is suitable for everybody. Some people may learn fast by rote while others may feel miserable getting through the strict protocol. Mindful learning is a more flexible learning philosophy than traditional learning that requires the students to follow the instructions step by step. The essence of mindful learning is to let the students think critically on the content they are taught rather than accept all of them mindlessly. Obviously, this learning methodology is good for the students to build up their own learning systems and apply the skills they have learnt in a more intelligent way. For example, in an architecture design class, students are taught how to draw the outline of the buildings based on the classic works of the top designers in the world. Students who perfectly follow all the instructions in the class can definitely be a good architecture designer but cannot surpass the colleagues who they are learning from. However, students who can adjust the designing based on their own understanding or preference exhibit the potential to produce the most creative work. Mindful learning certainly does a lot of good to me while I am doing research. Although I keep the habit to read the latest papers in my research field, I never design my research exactly following somebody’s protocol. Instead, I will integrate my understanding into my research and apply all the approaches I can get in a comprehensive way.

While I agree mindful learning is vitally important in areas that require creativity, I cannot neglect the importance of repetitive training in some areas that require strict skills. One example is gymnastics, the players need to finish a set of extremely difficult movements in a certain period of time to win the gold medal in Olympics. Considering the timescale to finish the movements is very short, the players cannot incorporate their thought into the movements while they are doing it. Therefore, the top gymnastic players need the repetitive training every day to strengthen their ability to finish the movements without thinking, which I call “mindless training” here. Mindless training applies for all the areas that require people to finish sophisticated skills in a short time. That is no wonder why almost all the top sports stars need a large amount of training every day. I have to admit that they are highly talented. However, they cannot be successful without mindless training because every detail need to be strengthened and naturally internalized into their bodies. As a conclusion of this blog, I would say both “mindful learning” and “mindless training” are important. The former works primarily for creative jobs while the latter works primarily for jobs that require perfect details.

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2 thoughts on “Mindful Learning vs Mindless Training

  1. I really like how you say that a mindless learner can still be very good at what they do, but they cannot surpass their colleagues. I find that very true in my field of engineering as well. What differentiates a good engineer to an exceptional engineer are the ones that can take skills from different experiences and applying them to new problem. They have a deeper understanding of the knowledge they gained and are capable of applying it to any problem, rather than just following procedures.

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  2. “The essence of mindful learning is to let the students think critically on the content they are taught rather than accept all of them mindlessly.”

    This ^ was one of my favorite lines from your above post. If we lose the ability, both as students and as educators, to think critically and formulate our own opinions on different matters, we fall into the trap of mindless following the popular thought/action of the time and lose the creativity of thought that makes us so special as humans. Great post!

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