The Power of Mindful Learning

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9780201339918: The Power of Mindful Learning
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Radical in its implications, this original and important work may change forever the views we hold about the nature of learning. In The Power of Mindful Learning, Ellen Langer uses her innovative theory of mindulness, introduced in her influential earlier book, to dramatically enhance the way we learn. In business, sports, laboratories, or at home, our learning is hobbled by certain antiquated and pervasive misconceptions. In this pithy, liberating, and delightful book she gives us a fresh, new view of learning in the broadest sense. Such familiar notions as delayed gratification, ”the basics”, or even ”right answers”, are all incapacitating myths which Langer explodes one by one. She replaces them with her concept of mindful or conditional learning which she demonstrates, with fascinating examples from her research, to be extraordinarily effective. Mindful learning takes place with an awareness of context and of the ever-changing nature of information. Learning without this awareness, as Langer shows convincingly, has severely limited uses and often sets on up for failure.With stunning applications to skills as diverse as paying attention, CPR, investment analysis, psychotherapy, or playing a musical instrument, The Power of Mindful Learning is for all who are curious and intellectually adventurous.

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Review:

Remember those all-nighters back in college--staying up till all hours memorizing the plu-perfect form of the verb avoir or the names and dates of succession of all the kings of England? Now remember facing that final exam and having your mind go blank? According to Professor Ellen J. Langer, author of The Power of Mindful Learning, those sleepless nights and agonizing memorization were probably for naught. In her book, Professor Langer seeks to prove that real learning takes place in a "mindful" environment, one that provides a context for the subject we are studying and allows us to bring something of ourselves into the process. As an example, she points to a study of two groups of piano students, one of which was taught through repetition and memorization of scales, while the other was encouraged to respond to their own thoughts and emotions. The second group became more competent and more creative.

Professor Langer espouses a more holistic approach to teaching than is generally in vogue today. For example, she believes that forgetting can be an essential component to learning: just as smokers who have attempted to quit before have a better chance of succeeding in future attempts, so people who have forgotten information and skills and then relearn them may remember better the second time. The Power of Mindful Learning is sure to raise a great deal of debate among educators, and this is a good thing; after all, what old dog couldn't stand to learn a new trick or two?

About the Author:

Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Harvard University, is the author of Personal Politics (with Carol Dweck), The Psychology of Control, and Mindfulness, which has been published in ten countries. She is also coeditor of Higher Stages of Development and Beliefs, Attitudes and Decision Making. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and numerous awards including the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest of the American Psychological Association.

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Langer, Ellen J.
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