Push the Limits of Learning

After teaching at BYU College of Nursing for 23 years, Catherine Coverston, Ph.D., RNC, delivered her last lecture on April 5, 2011.

Dr. Catherine Coverston, April 2011

Her address, “What I’ve Learned About Learning,” included comments on why she became a nurse.

In an advanced high school English class, her Puerto Rican instructor, Miss Compolongo, required students to read the works of three authors and three different types of writing and write a report. The assignment prompted Coverston’s decision to become an English teacher.

She registered for her freshman year in college with an English focus. During the summer, her 12-year old brother was severely injured at the service station where he worked. He spent the summer in the ICU, and when he was finally allowed to have visitors, Catherine went to the hospital to see him. As she walked down the long corridor, she realized she had little knowledge of what happens in a hospital.

“It suddenly hit me like a brick,” she said. “You are supposed to be a nurse! I knew nothing about nursing, but the impression was so strong I could hardly focus on my brother as I visited him. Then, the light switch came on, and I’ve never looked back.”

Coverston referred to a yoke as a symbol of royal power, used to weigh people down in her discussion of the learning process. She compared the yoke of education to the regalia worn at graduation. If not correctly adjusted, the hood, worn around the front of the neck, flows down the back and can be constricting and uncomfortable. Learning can likewise be adjusted, so it becomes comfortable and natural.

“It’s about making connections, rather than memorizing,” she said. “Balance the yoke. Make connections across classes. When you read something, make a connection with something else that’s familiar to you.

“When taking notes, handwriting is much better than using a computer because acupuncture points in the hand stimulate other thoughts. When I was studying abroad in Italy, the teacher gave us notes, so we didn’t have to take any. I used my highlighter while he lectured and never had to go back and read the notes. Take notes by hand!

“Measure your engagement when reading. Think, ‘Do I see a movie in my head?’ When reading scriptures, try and get a movie going in your head.

“Learning shouldn’t be a grind. ‘All-nighters’ do not work. The brain functions better when you’re asleep. Sleep is what you need after thinking about it for a while if you have a new and challenging problem. Take a walk. Take a nap. Give yourself 15 minutes to do something else. Think of it as a reward that gives you the energy to come back to the task. If studying technical material, switch to something non-technical. “

Dr. Coverston encouraged her audience to “. . . always push the limits of your ability to learn.

 Learn a language, an instrument, a sport; learn about the atmosphere, etc. Find out what others are reading and why they like it. I’m delighted when someone gets me excited to read something I would not otherwise consider.” 

Dr. Coverston ended her lecture by saying, “I am so appreciative for the opportunity to be here.”

“There is no greater gift to your children than an example of lifelong learning. Nothing is as demanding as raising children. You will use everything you ever learned to raise your family. Well-educated parents who are spiritually focused are the greatest gift to children.

Thank you for touching my life!”

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