Challenges – Do your students have a good relationship with Challenges?

How many times have you heard a student ask, “Do I have to do this?” Or, “Can I do something a bit easier?”

Do your students look for the easy options, seeking the “path of least resistance”?

Do too many of your students focus on completing work rather than completing it well? Do they ask, “Is this good enough?” Or, “Is this going to count”?
Perhaps your students are inclined to give up as soon as they begin to struggle, even just a little.

Do your students sometimes stre-e-e-e-e-e-tch the time they spend on tasks to avoid attempting the hard problems at the end of the lesson? 

If this sounds familiar, then your students don’t have a good relationship with challenges. They look for the instant gratification of doing something easy instead of the long-term gain of doing something difficult.

Students with a poor relationship with challenges need to be led, and sometimes dragged, through the learning process. They need the teacher to identify their Learning Zone, then scaffold and guide their learning.

All of which is exhausting for the teacher!

And when these students become adults, what then? What happens when there’s no teacher to push them or encourage them to grow? These students end up with little agency in the world. They become victims rather than the masters of their circumstances. (Download Learner Agency - guide for school leaders for more).

How can we help these students embrace challenges and leverage them in a way that enables them to grow?

Comfort, Performance, Learning, and Aspirational Zones
The first step in guiding our students to become more skilful learners is to help them recognise the difference between their Comfort, Performance, Learning and Aspirational Zones, and the benefits and consequences of targeting challenges in each.

Each of these four zones “feels” different.

Working in your Comfort Zone feels easy. You know you’ll be able to get the work done. Even if you haven’t done the task before, you’re confident it’s just going to take time.

In your Performance Zone, you feel like you’re doing your best. It takes all your resources to produce your current peak performance. But at the end of the day, all you do is reproduce a standard you’ve reached before. You’ve been busy, you’ve worked hard, but you haven’t improved.

Your Learning Zone is more uncomfortable. It feels like you’re tackling a problem you don’t immediately know the answer to. You’re 7/10 uncomfortable. There’s struggle and uncertainty, and you’ll almost certainly make mistakes. Also known as your Zone of Proximal Development, this zone represents the “stretch” (not strain) you feel when you work just beyond your current best. And it’s through the struggle and discomfort of your Learning Zone that you begin to grow.

Going too far beyond your current best puts you in your Aspirational Zone. This feels like a strain. It leaves you confused, unable to see your way forward, and you feel “out of your depth”. No amount of time in your Aspirational Zone creates much growth. 

One of the first steps in becoming a skilful learner is to recognise the difference between these zones and become familiar with how they “feel”. Then, you need to learn what to do when you’re in each of them!

Skilful learners embrace their Learning Zone. They become comfortable with their discomfort, embracing the “desirable difficulties” in this zone and leveraging them to grow.
Would you like to know more about how you can help your students become skilful learners? To embrace challenges and develop Learnership?

To find out more about how I can help you develop Learnership, simply email me, visit my website or schedule a time in my calendar for a conversation. 

Best Wishes,

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