I just need time to THINK!

Do you remember the last time you were BORED? If waiting for my zone to be called for a flight doesn’t count, then sadly, NO.

photo of woman sitting on a sofa posing
Photo by Marcelo Dias on Pexels.com

Like many adults, I have little down time. After spending several years in school, then working hard for tenure, and then having two kids, it is difficult to find time to just sit and THINK. Many of my best “what’s next” ideas happen when I am doing something non-academic, like walking the dog or cleaning the toilet.

My “too busy to think” pace of life made me curious about how students take time to think. In an article from the American Psychological Association on transferable skills, employers want job seekers to be able to THINK. Okay, not groundbreaking news? This seemingly silly request actually indicates a need for employees, typically college graduates, to be able to take what they have learned and synthesize and/or apply it to new learning.

It may be obvious that THINKING is needed for learning, but I believe we need to be more deliberate about giving away and taking the time to think. For example, countless studies have shown the positive impact of meta-cognition, or thinking about thinking on learning. More students are aware of being mindful about their thinking, however, I don’t think educators in the classroom may always give students the time to THINK. Pooja Agarwal, author of the incredible book on the science of learning Powerful Teaching  addressed a large audience in a recent keynote with the imperative, “STUDENTS NEED TO BE GIVEN TIME TO THINK.”

grayscale photo of woman facing macbook
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

If you believe this advice is overly simplistic, take a realistic example of how thinking can be cut short in the classroom. Imagine I’m giving a brilliant lecture on types of memory! As I work my way around lively examples of episodic, personal/time-based memories and semantic memories, the general facts that make some people a jeopardy star, how do I know my students are thinking? Students may appear to be listening and could be dutifully taking notes, so are they thinking? Well perhaps not. If they are not asked to stop and reflect, write their own overall summary of the main concepts, and are simply asked “do you understand” or “do you have any questions” there is a high likelihood they have not been given time to think and LEARN (see Dr. Pooja Agarwal’s site, retrievalpractice.org for excellent materials to encourage thoughtful retrieval).

What can learners do to THINK more:

  1. Find time to slow down and be bored. Force yourself to do nothing and see what new ideas or thoughts you have!
  2. When learning, stop to reflect on information by summarizing it in your own words.
  3. Attempt to connect new information with other knowledge.
  4. Be aware of the learning trap of familiarity — feeling like you learned does not guarantee learning. Students often fall into this trap by gaining false confidence that they know material by reading, and re-reading notes.
  5. Ask educators to build Think Time into class. Teachers this means getting comfortable throwing out content in exchange for time to ask students to retrieve what they have learned BEFORE they share it with anyone else. This ensures students can recall information on their own.

NEED MORE TIME TO THINK? Hit the pause button more often. Limit one thing you do each day that either overstimulates you or sucks away time. Take back this time and be alone with your thoughts. You might be surprised what you discover!

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