No option!

Yes, we do need to shift from using focused attention in the classroom

Often people will say that, in a class of 25 students, it isn’t possible to use sustained attention so, by default, we must use focused attention (which leads to shallow connections and thus the need to use inducements to get work done).

This is a circular argument.

Focused attention allows us to very quickly come up with a course of action based on judging and comparing what we are seeing now with what we have done before. But should we be coming up with a course of action every time we interact with a student?

Twenty-first-century skills are founded on self-motivation and require teacher support to encourage building that and activities such as formative assessment have come to the fore as one expression of that.

Sustained attention, where we notice what is new or different, and which develops deep and reciprocal relationships with students is the cornerstone to building self-motivation, encouraging students to willingly do their best work.

James-Tissot - The-Captain-and-the-Mate -1873

James-Tissot - The-Captain-and-the-Mate -1873

If the aim is to direct students efficiently from task to task then focused attention is, indeed, the appropriate form of attention.

But if the aim is to develop students to be self-motivated, engaging in and shaping their own learning, then sustained attention is the way to build the deep reciprocal connections that underpin students’ willingness to do their best work, and to notice the things that will best help THIS student to clarify what they need to do next.

Not only can we use sustained attention in the classroom, we must if we are to meet students’ current and future needs.


The first public event – a one-day workshop on 21st November - based on my latest book Red Brain Blue Brain is now open for registration.  This is suitable for teaching staff at any level from the newly graduated to those in senior positions and is a good way for a school to get a taste of what is possible.    For more information and to register go here.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.  Earlier blogs can be found here.

  • To purchase a copy of Red Brain Blue Brain or Student Feedback go here

John Corrigan