How can mindful learning empower learners to better adapt to change?

When was the last time you really engaged with your learning? When did you last notice something new, or try to understand something from another perspective? 

Addressing these questions in your learning experiences encourages mindful learning. When your learners learn mindfully, they adapt better to new experiences. Your learners will learn mindlessly when they rely on ingrained thought processes that don’t serve them anymore.

When a task is first learned, we often pay a lot of attention to the little steps. Once we become experts at the same task, we don’t generally see all of the little steps anymore, we just perform the entire task as a whole. When experts can do the tasks but can’t think critically about why or how they’re doing it, being able to change and adapt becomes harder than it has to be. This is also known as ‘the danger of overlearning.’

Why learn mindfully?

Studies show that mindful learners are more sensitive to their environments, are more open-minded, and are better at considering other perspectives when solving problems². Mindful learning also has a role in crisis prevention and management. In a post-COVID world, pre-empting crises and solving problems creatively when they occur is a valuable skill.

Where mindless learners repeat things by rote and get stuck in their habits, mindful learners are always on the lookout for new ideas and perspectives. For greater agility and responsiveness to change, especially our present world of work, it’s clear that mindful learning - including mindful eLearning - is where we want to move to.

Implementing Mindful eLearning

We know that mindful learning enhances our ability to adapt and apply what we have learned creatively, but how do you actually teach mindfully?Below, we suggest three new ways to teach and learn mindfully using your Totara Talent Experience Platform (TXP).

  1. Notice something new

Your learners struggle to pay attention when they’re focused on being focused. Get your learners to vary their attention and notice something new by using these reflection questions after completing a lesson or topic:

  • What didn’t I know before?
  • Is there anything different about what I’m seeing now?
  • What’s unique about the information I’m being given?

Asking your learners to think about their learning will help them keep focused. Encourage your learners to keep asking these questions even after the learning is over. When mindful attention is paid to day-to-day work, it’s possible for learners to identify crises before they happen. 

But in eLearning how can you practically get your learners to reflect on and answer these questions?

Make answering the questions a part of the learning experience. Creating a Workspace in Totara Engage allows learners to have open discussions about their learning. Learners can share the things they notice, and fruitful discussions are there for other Workspace members to see and interact with.

Workspaces in Totara Engage can be small, private spaces for learners to challenge themselves and others, or a space for the whole organisation to come together for informal learning experiences. In this case, implementing this strategy can be a positive learning experience for everyone—learner and designer alike. 

  1. Consider other perspectives

Considering other contexts and perspectives looks like asking:

  • Is what I am being taught true for others?
  • In what context would what I learned be different?

Getting learners to ask these questions might feel like you’re asking them to question what you’re teaching - and in a way you are - but that’s not unhealthy. The point of mindful learning is to get your learners actively engaged and thinking about the content and its context.

To get started with considering new perspectives, show your learners new ideas. The playlist feature in Totara Engage allows you to gather articles, videos, and podcasts to promote different perspectives on an issue to your learners. Learners can then go back to their dedicated Workspace to discuss the things they’ve learned in a less formal environment.

So, what now? 

Mindful learning is the act of being more sensitive to your environment, noticing new things, and being able to adjust when necessary. Using mindful learning practices are associated with a greater ability to adapt to change and identify crises before they happen. In this article, we suggested some new ways that you can implement mindful learning in your Totara TXP.

Have you tried mindful learning yourself through your Totara TXP and want to share your experience? Or do you want to find out more about the Totara TXP platform and how you can create these opportunities in your learning design? Contact us on Twitter, Linkedin, or through our website.



[1] Langer, E. J. (2000). Mindful learning. Current directions in psychological science, 9(6), 220-223.

[2] Langer, E. J., & Moldoveanu, M. (2017). The construct of mindfulness.

[3] Langer, E. J., & Imber, L. G. (1979). When practice makes imperfect: Debilitating effects of overlearning. Journal of personality and social psychology, 37(11), 2014.

[4] Langer, E., Hatem, M., Joss, J., & Howell, M. (1989). Conditional teaching and mindful learning: The role of uncertainty in education. Creativity Research Journal, 2(3), 139–150.

[5] Veil, S. R. (2011). Mindful learning in crisis management. The Journal of Business Communication (1973), 48(2), 116-147.