The Importance of Attention in Learning
Attention is a complex and dynamic functional system that facilitates the processing of information. At the same time, it allows for the selection of the stimuli necessary for carrying out sensory, cognitive, and motor activities. In other words, to perform any cognitive process, attentional mechanisms must be at work. Therefore, the importance of attention in learning is paramount.
According to Rios-Lago and Perianez, we can define attention in the following way:
“Attention is the mental ability to generate and maintain a state of activation that allows for an adequate processing of information. Attention allows for the selection of specific information among multiple available sources. That includes internal and external stimulation, memories, thoughts, and even motor actions. In this sense, attention must be considered a complex system of specialized subprocessces that provide precision, speed, and continuity to the behavior.”
– Rios-Lago y Perianez –
Attention while studying
To achieve good academic performance, studying is necessary. However, during study periods, it’s easy for people to become distracted, which can depend on two factors:
- External factors: The place where the studying takes place, the amount of time, noise, and outside distractions.
- Internal factors: Worry, tiredness, nervousness, stress, etc.
It’s important for children to study in an environment that meets the right conditions. In that sense, the characteristics of an optimal study area are the following:
- Always the same.
- Well lit.
- Well ventilated.
- Free of distractions.
- With a comfortable temperature.
- Has a table or desk and a chair.
At the same time, it’s important to be sure that students take breaks throughout their study time. This is essential in order for them to be able to relax and concentrate better. In fact, learning takes place faster when students have the ability to manage their attention over a short period of time. That’s why taking breaks makes study times more productive and effective.
It’s also a good idea to observe children in order to make sure they stay calm under the pressure that studying can impose. Parents should provide them with a series of guidelines that allow them to remain alert regarding how they’re doing. That way, children will realize as soon as possible when their attention is fading in order to recover and return to their studying.
“Never consider study as an obligation, but as the opportunity to penetrate the beautiful and wonderful world of knowledge.”
– Albert Einstein –
Importance of attention in learning
When we talk about learning, we’re referring to the acquisition of knowledge and abilities. But, in order to learn, being able to pay attention is fundamental. With that in mind, there are two types of attention that students need to study and learn:
- Selective attention: Ability to select relevant aspects and inhibit other stimuli.
- Sustained attention: Capacity to concentrate on a task over a prolonged period of time.
This involves a good level of physiological activation. In other words, maintaining an alert state in order to respond to environmental stimuli so that one can pay attention to relevant signals and disregard those that are irrelevant.
The level of activation also affects performance in tasks that, as this level increases, also increase efficiency in work. It’s important for children to sleep well during the night in order to stay active while learning during the day. Otherwise, children will feel fatigued, both mentally and physically, which produces malfunctions in their ability to concentrate.
What’s more, to maintain proper attention, there needs to be interest and motivation. In fact, the more students like a subject, the better they can assimilate concepts and knowledge that have to do with the matter at hand. That’s because they want to pay attention and make a greater effort when carrying out tasks related to that subject.
As you can see, the importance of attention in learning is paramount, so it’s important for parents and educators to provide students with the tools and environment they need in order to maximize this ability.
“Attention is a tool in learning, and by making classes entertaining, students will pay more attention.”
– Eva Eloísa Raya Ramos –
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Bernabéu Brotóns, E. (2017). La atención y la memoria como claves del proceso de aprendizaje. Aplicaciones para el entorno escolar. https://digibug.ugr.es/bitstream/handle/10481/47141/6-2-3.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Castillo, M.D. (2009). La atención. Madrid: Pirámide.
- García Viedma, R., Pérez Hernández, E., & Fernández Guinea, S. (2008). Modelos atencionales y educación. Revista de Psicología y Educación. https://repositorio.uam.es/bitstream/handle/10486/676579/modelos_garcia_rpe_2008.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Raya-Ramos, E. E. (2010). Factores que intervienen en el aprendizaje. Revista digital para profesionales de la enseñanza, (7).
- Ríos-Lago, M. y Periañez, J.A. (2010). Attention and Speed of information processing. En G. Koob, R.F. Thompson y M. Le Moal (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience. Boston: Elsevier.