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ByJoseph   posted on01 Sep, 12 1668 Views 0 Comments Regular Feature Add to favorite

How to Become a Thinker?

Processing and retaining information has been a problem to me. Can you explain to me how I could master the art of processing and retaining information and become a thinker in the real sense?

Sudip Joshi, Allahabad

Dear Sudip Joshi,
Many students behave as if they are like tape recorders and can somehow absorb knowledge simply by being able to hear or see it and record it. However, the fact is that you are not a tape recorder. Tape recorders cannot do anything to the recorded information except to retain it and play it back; but you can ‘process’ the information as you desire. If you behave as a recorder, new information will not be integrated with your prior knowledge and understanding; the information remains isolated, cannot be used effectively in new tasks and does not transfer readily to new situations. Consequently, students are active processors of information who are trying to make sense of the presented material. Hence, it is essential for you to develop expertise in processing information in different subject domains.

How should you process information? There are three processes that you should be aware of:

• The first process involves focusing attention on the short-term memory on relevant pieces of information received and sifting out relevant from irrelevant information. This involves selecting information from the sensory input (e.g. reading, hearing) and adding that information to the short-term memory.
• The second process involves organising, or building connections among, the selected pieces of information into a coherent whole within the short-term memory.
• The third process involves integrating, or building external connections between, the organised new knowledge and organised existing knowledge in the long-term memory.

Knowledge widens and deepens as students continue to build links between new information and experiences and their existing knowledge base. The nature of these links can take a variety of forms, such as adding to, modifying, or reorganising existing knowledge or skills. How these links are made or develop may vary in different subject areas, and among students with varying talents, interests and abilities.

The word ‘knowledge’ actually means ‘to have sport with ideas’. A knowledgeable person is someone who can play with ideas, not just someone who can retain facts, recall information or simply repeat a task. To play with ideas means holding information in the short-term and long-term memory and processing them by comparing and contrasting, attributing, classifying, sequencing, prioritising, evaluating, determining cause and effect, analysing for bias and drawing conclusions. Through these series of thinking activities, new ideas can be created through inventing, inferring, generalising, predicting, hypothesising and making analogies.

Therefore, if you wish to be a knowledgeable person, you should not practise retaining information, but instead, process information. When you put effort into processing information, you will become capable of a metacognitive or executive level of thinking that includes self-awareness, self-inquiry (self-dialogue), self-monitoring and self-regulation of the processes and contents of thoughts, knowledge structures and memories. In essence, you become a thinker capable of solving problems, creating ideas and making decisions.

Getting Motivated

I lack in motivation. Kindly give me some suggestions to make me motivated as a student.

Sehr Raheja, Gurgaon

Dear Sehr Raheja,
Motivation, or the enthusiasm to continue doing well, does not apply only to work, but to your studies too. To be motivated, you have to first understand the barriers, and then the strategies to overcome them.

Time Wasters, such as going out with friends and watching TV or the movies

These appear to be very attractive when you’re at your books. But reading anything can also be pleasurable and enjoyable. So displace these short-term transitory goals with long-term and lasting ones (e.g. career success and joy at a future point in time). Being incessantly couched before a TV also has ill effects. Do some serious study, assignment or project for 2–3 hours, and then reward yourself with a TV programme.

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