Divided Attention

By: Angry Old Man

It is always a great pleasure to run into a former student.  This student triggered off a memory because at the start of the school year she was really struggling.  She was normally a high B student who was consistently getting D’s on my assessments.  I remember when she scored an A on her second straight assessment I asked her what changed.

I was truly expecting, came to reviews more often, spent more time but instead she told me that she used to read the text book while talking to her boyfriend and for the past two units she would call her boyfriend after reading the book.  What amazed her was that she read the book quicker and understood the information better.  To make things even better her boyfriend appreciated that when they were talking her focus was on him.  So, for her it was win, win, win.

She mentioned to me that what really made her realize that multi-tasking does not work was the demonstration we did in class on dichotic listening.  A student volunteered to sit in the middle of two people who would be reading to him.  The student in the middle would repeat word for word everything the person on the right was saying. The person on left at the same time was reading a different text book to him.  At the end of the minute I would ask him what the person on the left was reading about.

The student in the middle had no idea what the person on the left was reading about.  They did not even realize when that person changed languages during the reading.  The only thing that they might have noticed is when the student on the left mentioned the name of the student in the middle.  This demonstration made her realize that she often did not know what she had just read because her focus was more on her boyfriend’s conversation.

Now with exams approaching, how can we get the most out of our time.  Try modifying your situation like my former student.  Make sure when you are reviewing for exams that you have no electronic devices around you.  Give them to your parents or just put them in another room.  When studying at school make sure you are in a place where there are no distractions.

Hopefully, like my former student, focusing on one task might help you learn the material better without spending more time studying.

Originally published here:

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