Fostering an Ability to Focus

Posted by Patrick Henry College on 4/28/21 2:02 PM

Fostering an Ability to Focus 1

An ability to focus—an application of one’s attention to a particular task for a prolonged period of time—is becoming increasingly scarce in present-day culture. There are so many facets of the world around us that have been designed to capture our attention for a few seconds before offering the “next” source of information, entertainment, noise, or immediate gratification. Whether using the smartphones in our hands, or the layout of our websites, or the streaming platforms we use, the world wants your attention in soundbites.

And for Gen-Z, that’s a problem!

Professor Nikki Graves, writing for the Pew Research Center, says she’s observed a developing trend.

“We currently live in a culture that fosters attention-deficit disorder because of hyper-connectivity,” Graves said. “I have been teaching at the college level since 1993, and I can see a definitive decline in students’ ability to focus on details and in general. Additionally, I believe that the research on the relationship between hyper-connectivity and [a lack of attention] has merit.”

The next generation of American leaders needs to overcome a growing deficit of attention. Patrick Henry College's unique academic program applies a classical methodology of education and discussion-based learning. Through guided discussion, reasoned argumentation, and in-person dialogue, professors are able to better engage and pull together students that are focused; students that would otherwise be isolated by LED screens. This dialectic helps to orient students’ minds, provides a stronger ability to concentrate, and improves academic discipline.

Mentorship

There are a few ways in which Patrick Henry College does this.

Note-taking 
In virtually all lower-level classes, students may not use laptops and electronic devices as note-taking tools. The same is true for the vast majority of upper-level classes. All of our students must rely on their ability to organize information using pen and paper. By having to chose which pieces of information they record, students learn how to filter through a continuous flow of information. What’s important? What’s not important? It’s a process that will help students learn more about their methods of learning and enable them to concentrate for long periods of time.

Discussion
Another central component of the PHC classroom, discussion-based learning, encourages students to actively participate with the material that they are presented with. Instead of simply allowing students to sit through class, discussion necessitates interaction between teacher and student, and students with one another, thereby promoting heightened levels of concentration and activity. Because of smaller class sizes and the unique orientation of the classroom, Patrick Henry College produces students who can engage in meaningful discussions for prolonged periods of time.

Internship
Preparation is great, but nothing is quite like the real thing. By placing each of its students in real-world internship situations, Patrick Henry College provides its graduates with the opportunity to get a sense of their performance in the workplace before they graduate. This helps students identify their skills and strengths, but also give early notice to professional blind spots and areas that need further development.

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Patrick Henry College graduates stands apart from their peers. They have a strong ability to focus, to better organize their thoughts, to think clearly about present-day culture and its challenges, and to navigate these uncharted waters in God-honoring ways. Learn more.

Christian Philosophy of Education

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