How Different Learners Respond to Challenge Pits

As we explored last week, in the Learning Landscape, challenges are represented by four different types of pits.

In schools, we are used to talking about challenges. But particularly at the moment, it’s important to note that from a learning perspective, the only difference between challenge and adversity, is the source.

Challenges are typically things we choose to take on. In the context of the Learning Landscape, we decide to jump into the Challenge Pit.

On the other hand, adversity is something we are forced to take on. Circumstances give as a bit of a shove and we find ourselves in a Challenge Pit. Right at the moment, many of us are finding ourselves in Challenge Pits that we never expected to be in!

Our response to these challenges and adversities define us as learners. Most importantly, we can teach students how to respond more positively to the challenges and adversity they find themselves confronting today.

How are you, your students and your community responding to our current challenges?

As teachers, it’s essential that we first help learners to recognise these different types of challenges and nurture how they respond to them.

Different types of challenges “feel” different. Downhill challenges feel like “tasks” and are easily completed. Performance Challenges feel like “doing your best”, and getting it right. Learning Challenges feel like a struggle and require effort. Aspirational Challenges feel impossible.

Learning to recognise which type of Challenge Pit you’re in helps you in your journey towards becoming a better learner.

The most effective learners understand that learning is meant to be challenging and, ultimately, it’s the challenge that helps them grow. They learn to seek out and embrace Learning Challenges.

Non-Learners prefer to avoid challenges altogether. They would rather do nothing than something.

Beginning Learners prefer downhill challenges. They love being in their comfort zone, and knowing that the “challenges” will be easy for them.

As a result, these learners are very sensitive to change. We often recognise them as fragile and unable to respond effectively to adversity.

Performance Learners like to stick with Performance Challenges. They’ve succeeded at that level of difficulty before, and prefer to protect themselves from failure by repeating their best. They are very sensitive to change and adversity because they don’t know how to perform in different environments.

All three of the learners above need to be protected from adversity. In times of challenge, such as we are facing now, they find it extremely hard to respond effectively and require a great deal of support and protection.

Directed Learners are compliant and will attempt Learning Challenges at the direction of the teacher. They aren’t good at identifying their own Learning Zone yet, so rely on the support of the teacher to set appropriate challenges.

When adversity comes along, these learners can be more resilient because they can follow teachers directions, and prepare for, and recover from, new challenges they encounter. These are the students who currently need our support and will use this to grow.

Independent Learners target specific goals that meet their needs. They are better at identifying their own Learning Zone and will take on Learning Challenges that help them reach their goals.

These learners are adaptable. When things don’t go to plan, they can respond by setting new goals. They know how to go about developing the abilities that adversity now demands that they develop.

These are the learners who are now adapting to the challenges around them. They might be struggling, but they are navigating their own way through these difficult times.

Agile Learners embrace all Learning Challenges. They recognise that every time they take on a Learning Challenge they have to fill their backpack with new Habits of Mind to help them climb. These Habits of Mind can then be applied throughout the Learning Landscape making all learning easier.

These learners are what we call antifragile. Each time a challenge comes along, it’s embraced as an opportunity to grow. In times full of challenges and adversity, these are the learners that not only survive, but they also thrive!

These people are more likely to be prepared for the types of challenges being thrust upon them at the moment. Because, in the past, they have sought out Learning Challenges for the opportunity it gave them to grow. They do not have to react or respond to the same degree. They proactively prepared for themselves by embracing challenges in the past, so find themselves better prepared to deal with today’s challenges!

What type of challenges do your students tend to want to engage in most of the time? How do they respond to those challenges? Do they see them as an opportunity to grow, or do they see them as an obstacle to be avoided?

Most importantly, what are we doing to help nurture our learner’s attitude towards challenges and adversity, and become more Agile Learners?

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