Characteristics of Great Learners, Part 2: Keeping Commitments

Keeping commitments at BYU means more than abiding by the Honor Code. It also includes honoring your agreements with your professors as they try to help you learn and grow, and helping your classmates do the same.

When he was Church Commissioner of Education, President Henry B. Eyring identified five characteristics of great learners in a BYU Devotional talk (“A Child of God,” Brigham Young University Speeches 1997-98, 3-6). Here is the second point he identified:

“A second characteristic of great learners is that they keep commitments. Any community functions better when people in it keep their promises to live up to its accepted standards. But for a learner and for a community of learners, that keeping of commitments has special significance.”

Have you ever thought of your classes as “communities of learners” with commitments to keep? On the first day of class when the professor reviews the syllabus with you, he or she is establishing the expectations and conditions under which your education has the best chance of flourishing. When the professor asks you to read every day before class, it’s for your good! And by remaining in the class, you’re agreeing to keep those commitments and work with your professor to give you the best possible effort to learn. Sometimes it’s hard, but as President Eyring said,

“That is why we sometimes describe our fields of study as ‘disciplines.’ . . . What all disciplines have in common is a search for rules and a commitment to them. And what all great learners have is a deep appreciation for finding better rules and a commitment to keeping them. That is why great learners are careful about what commitments they make and then keeping them.”

If you’re not keeping your community’s rules, you could be hindering your professor’s plans for helping each student become successful. When you don’t stick to your commitments—by skipping a lecture, not doing your reading for a class, or slacking off on a group project—you’re not just hindering your own education, but you’re also impeding your class-community’s education, too. How has keeping commitments in your education helped you? How can you encourage others to see their education as entering a “discipline?” Please write your comments below.

This is the second part of a series on the characteristics of great learners. Read more tips in this series: Welcoming Correction, Hard Work and Overcoming Resistance, and Helping Others.