Becoming a Better College Student

by qtubb1 on November 17, 2014 - 7:27pm

               “The New Science of Learning:  How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain,” by Terry Doyle and Todd Zakrajsek, was written to help students find and implement ways to become better learners. Chapter 8, “Paying Attention”, specifically focuses on attention spans and ways to improve learning. The focus of this chapter is to propose ways that students can increase their learning, be better engaged, and get the most out of their lessons, even if the subject matter is boring. The focal point of this chapter is; how the brain pays attention, what interests the brain, and what students can do to improve their attention span. Doyle and Zakrajsek focus on sleep, exercise, and multitasking and the effects they have on learning, attention, and recall.

                The reading addresses three terms that explain the concept of paying attention; sustained attention, effortless attention, and effortful attention. Sustained attention is the ability to work on a task over an extended period of time (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2013). Based on the research material used, sustained attention, as well as, effortful attention is most needed to succeed in college. Effortful attention requires students to pay more attention as the learning material gets harder. Effortless attention makes students feel great when they’re engaged because it’s the process of being in the zone when engaged in an activity that id desirable. Unlike sustained and effortful attention, this type of attention isn’t needed for college success (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2013). The authors place an emphasis on the fact that everything learned in college won’t be of interest to you, but it is very important that you find a connection, or set a learning goal in order to effectively learn new information. Student’s daydream, which is normal, but you must be able to quickly refocus in order to improve academically. Students believe they can multitask but it actually takes your attention away from what needs to be learned. In order to effectively learn new material, you must be 100% attentive.

                Imagine having a genuine interest in everything that crossed your path? Wouldn’t that make learning more fun and engaging? If everything you learned was chosen based on your interest there wouldn’t be a challenge, and you’d lack the ability to process and reiterate new information. You can compare it to having a boss that isn’t interesting or that you aren’t too fond of. If they’re trying to teach you something that doesn’t interest you, how do you expect to excel in at your job if you aren’t paying attention? Learning is a challenge. Information derived from different places makes it a much more difficult challenge. Even more difficult is finding the ability to absorb the information when it lacks stimulation.

                Doyle and Kakrajsek note that in order for the brain to operate properly you must get at least 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night. The brain processes and stores information while you’re asleep in order to make room for new information (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2013). Have you ever tried focusing on a lecture while tired? It doesn’t work out that well. Try recalling half of that information five minutes after you step foot out of that class. Just how the body requires sleep to function properly, so does the brain. Aerobic exercise has been proven to stimulate the brain and increase a person’s ability to pay attention. During exercise, the body’s natural chemicals are being released into the brain in larger amounts which makes learning new material easier (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2013). Exercising four to five times a week is a good way to promote healthy learning. The authors suggest using the internet to find ways that help to improve learning. They’ve also noted that meditation is a great tool to enhance learning. Different techniques work for different people (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2013). For some people distractions are their issue, and finding a quiet place to study can increase learning. I suggest trying exercise, meditation, creating and maintaining a proper sleep schedule, and proper nourishment of the body.

                I can say that I’m guilty of sleep deprivation, multitasking, and drifting from boredom. My goal after taking this course is to become a better learner. Often times we take classes just to fill credits and apply ourselves just enough for a passing grade. I think we should do more to maximize our learning, which we could in turn use those techniques outside of the classroom. Paying attention is a key factor in improving our learning and becoming better college students.

Doyle, Terry, and Todd Zakrajsek. "Paying Attention." The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain. First ed. Sterling: Stylus, LLC., 2013. 125. Print.


As a college student, I can totally relate to your post. I am guilty too of sleep deprivation, multitasking and daydreaming. I think if we learned how to be more organized and efficient we would have more time to work and sleep. Sometimes I am so stressed I can't sleep and so tired I can't work. Learning, as you said, is a challenge and should not become some kind of torture. Your post made me realise I should learn how to focus in order to maximize my learning.

It is really difficult to keep up with everything you are required to do as a college student, but part of that comes from how you handle things at home as well. We can be easily organized if we tried at school using things as simple as an agenda (provided by most schools), but the things in our personal life can invade our organization and just mess everything up including lack of sleep or procrastination. Having a course like this would benefit anybody who can admit that they have a problem with this or some sort of trouble.

I totally agree with you that paying attention is one of the most needed ability in order to succeed in college. However, it is important to be aware of the consequences of not paying attention in order to make the right choice. This ought to be pretty easy to figure out. If you don’t pay attention in class, you are just making life harder for yourself and obviously you reduce your chance of learning effectively. As you said, having an interest would make learning more fun and interesting and I can tell you that it is true. Throughout my student life, I noticed that my better grades were in subjects that I like. Last year, I discover that the subject that interests me the most is psychology. When I go to psychology class, I pay closer attention therefore I process information more efficiently and I enjoy engaging in critical thinking which is, I believe, a learning strategy. I also see that I work harder and longer on my psychology assignments.

Also, I find myself when you say, “I’m guilty of sleep deprivation, multitasking, and drifting from boredom”. It is true that all these factors are a source of challenge when it comes to learn. You’ve provided good tools that help to improve learning such as exercise, meditation, good sleep and nourishment. These tools are great for any students in general. However, I think you should also mention and take into consideration other people that might have more difficulty to learn. According to Statistics Canada, learning disabilities increased considerably among Canadians aged 15 and over by almost 40 per cent. Furthermore, Statistics Canada reports that more than half millions Canadians adults live with learning disabilities making life more challenging for them. Learning disabilities and ADHD are not the same but both interfere in learning. As a student prescribed with ADHD, I can truly tell you that learning is harder for because of my attention deficit. Comparing with others, I have to develop more techniques and tools to enhance my learning. Since learning disabilities affect a great number of people in our country, you should try to consider these people when you talk about techniques to improve our learning. Here are links to an article and a website where you can find statistic about learning disabilities in Canada. The article is interesting because it gives you a general overview of what are the types of learning disabilities and it provides numerous techniques and tips that help the learning of teen and children with learning disabilities.


: As a college student, I completely agree with you, that college student that we should improve our learning techniques. You made a good point, taking about sleep deprivation and multitasking. In your paper, you suggest that to have a good time to sleep increase the learning ability. I can say that you are actually right, because as personal experience, when i sleep about 7 or 8 hours, I am more able to be concentrated and retain what I previously learned in class. For more information, you can also see the given website (
That is talking about studies on sleeping time correlated to learning.

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