Developing concentration is similar to developing physical strength; with patient, persistent practice, techniques can be instilled that increase the strength and duration of a student’s attention span. Devika Mankani, psychologist at The Hundred Wellness Centre explains the psychology behind this and provides a few tips and tricks for developing concentration.
While there are many classifications of students based on personality traits, one of the most popular tools used is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This theory and test can be used to understand behaviour, including those that are commonly experienced during the learning process. The MBTI includes 16 different personality types that are the result of various combinations of four different dimensions.
The first dimension, and the one we will cover in this article, is the ‘Extrovert or Introvert’ preference. This definition doesn’t work in the same way we perceive social functioning, but rather it’s a way of understanding how we gain energy from both the outside world (extrovert) and internally (introvert).
When we apply the first dimension of the personality types to a classroom environment, we see that the extrovert students tend to verbalise their thoughts more, assert themselves, and tend to want more interaction during the learning process. Motivation comes from having the space to do this in the learning environment. The student with an introvert preference tends to listen more, wants time to work out things on their own, and share once they are ready. To push an introvert student to respond before they are ready could create a stressful response, even if they know the answer.
Students with an extrovert preference may learn better with a teacher who adopts a teaching style that involves more verbal engagement, whilst a student with an introvert preference may learn better when their teacher allows time for them to work on concepts internally first.
To encourage improved concentration for extrovert and introvert students, I use the SEED model – Sleep, Engage, Exercise, Diet.
- Sleep: This is a very common but overlooked barrier to learning. It’s also one of the easiest to change. A lack of sleep contributes to mood and cognitive disruptions and in severe cases can be very dangerous.
- Engage: Unless students are engaged in what they are learning they will not be able to learn, even if they are motivated to. Interest can be piqued through stories, interaction, new information, and appropriate praise.
- Exercise: A lack of movement is contributing to an epidemic of obesity in young children, but it is also inhibiting new neural connections. A minimum of one hour a day, regardless of age, is a good guideline to follow, but what’s more important is to keep active, move around, and avoid sitting in one place for longer than 45 minutes for younger children and one hour for older children.
- Diet: Food fuels our brain and the quality of food is key to food mind-body functioning. My favorite food rules are whole food and plant-based – follow this rule 85% of the time.
Inga Rehbein, the Head of Primary School at German International School Dubai says that the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time needs training. “Using concentration games like Memory or traditional board games helps children to learn playfully while focusing on one activity for a long period of time.”
Devika Mankani is a certified psychologist at The Hundred Wellness Centre and occasionally offers her services at Fortes Education schools.