Attending To Important Information

Students are required to absorb and process a great deal of information in school everyday. During any given class, students must attend to information that ranges from detailed facts to complex concepts, to people such as teachers and peers, to instructions and assignments, and to managing the materials necessary in the class.

A student's processing controls direct how he/she "takes in" of all of this information. The processing controls of attention specifically help students select which information is most important, and then use that information as needed. These controls act as a kind of gatekeeper, facilitating the initial understanding of information before storing it in memory.

The following are five roles of the processing controls:

  1. Determining the most important, or relevant, information to be processed.
  2. Calibrating the degree to which information is processed.
  3. Determining the span of attention for a particular task, and the ease with which attention is shifted.
  4. Controlling the extent to which incoming information triggers connections or associations to other information.
  5. Ensuring that all information, even that which is not inherently satisfying, is processed.
Necessary SubSkillsCommon ObstaclesHelpful Tips
Student can distinguish the most important, or central information from that which is irrelevant or less important. Student often processes too little or too much information because he/she cannot distinguish what is important and what isn't. view
Student is able to effectively think about information, considering an appropriate number of details and level of depth. Student appears to focus on things too superficially, not thinking about the details of what he/she is learning. view
Student pays attention to information for appropriate amounts of time, and can make smooth shifts in his/her focus. Student arbitrarily shifts attention during tasks, or seems to focus too long on particular information or tasks. view
Student can connect or associate new information with information that he/she already knows, while still attending to the information at hand. Student has difficulty connecting new information with information that he/she already knows. Student's mind seems to wander to related or tangential ideas when new information is introduced. view
Student is able to attend to information and complete tasks that may not be exciting. Student only pays attention to exciting information or during highly stimulating activities. view