Keep reading to learn some strategies on how to move learners out of their comfort zone.
Moving people out of their comfort zone is not easy at all. I say this as an educator and a beginner in boxing. Generally, people like to be where they are comfortable; where they don’t have to deal with anything. The fact though is that growth doesn’t happen when people stay where they are comfortable. So, to see your students grow, you have to move them out of their comfort zone.
Vygotsky’s concept of the “Zone of Proximal Development”
Vygotsky’s concept states that, in order to learn successfully, students must be in a challenging environment. Thus, educators have the responsibility to apply the right level of discomfort to move students outside of their comfort zone. Conversely, if you push students too hard, they may start to panic and feel overwhelmed. In both instances, learning may not occur. Instead, educators should aim for the “sweet spot” where learning takes place. This “sweet spot” is what Vygotsky calls the Zone of Proximal Development.
How to Move Learners Out of Their Comfort Zone
The type of learners you have will determine what measures you should adopt. However, these strategies are feasible for a wide range of learners.
Use a diagnostic pre-assessment
Have you ever been bored by an overly simple lesson? Or discouraged by a difficult lesson? Imagine being told the same story over and over again. Or being told a story in a language you don’t understand. In all these instances it’s clear that learning will most likely not occur.
A great way to avoid this is to use a pre-assessment to measure learners’ present skills and knowledge. This will help you to develop a tailored learning path for each group of learners. Those who are completely new to the core concepts and those who are more advanced. With the results from the pre-assessment, you can easily adjust learning materials to suit students’ needs.
Set expectations/goals with learners
A goal is the object of a person’s ambition or effort towards an aim or desired result. Goal setting is an underrated exercise. Setting goals with students for a learning session is a good way to keep them involved. When learners know what you expect of them, they are more likely to move out of their ‘shells’. Importantly, the goals you set must be realistic; not easy, and not too difficult. Setting expectations/goals together with learners tells them they need to work hard to achieve those goals.
As a teaching assistant, I noticed how my mentor prioritized expectations setting for every lecture. Apart from that, at the beginning of every semester, she would make our students have a ‘reflection session’. This reflection session was the time when learners wrote down what they wanted to achieve that semester. And shared their goals with the professor. I believe this is one major reason why our students are known for great academic achievements.
Motivation is a disposition toward learning. As a result, it influences whether a student will give up or persevere. As well as how thoughtfully they will reflect on their learning.
Motivation is one of the best ways to move students out of their comfort zone. When I first started boxing, I could barely throw two punches without getting tired. Funny enough, I wanted to learn a sport but at the same time, not break a sweat. I wanted something easy, something comfortable. In short, I got a good coach who motivated me to get out of my comfort zone. Clearly, I can’t say I am an expert in boxing but I am learning. And this learning process would not have begun if I didn’t get motivation from myself and my coach.
As an educator, you must play the role of a coach. Intrinsic motivation is great but no matter how personally motivated your students are, they may need you at some point. They may need your words of affirmation, encouragement, and hope.
Coaching is the universal language of change and learning
Track and reward learners’ progress -T&R
After all the other strategies, you still need to track learners’ progress. This is because learners may slump back to their comfort zone if you do not keep track of them. Undoubtedly, tracking is easier if you have a small class. However, even in a big class, you can adopt feasible strategies to keep track of learners’ progress. For instance, pairing students up as accountability partners. The concept of the accountability partner is to measure the goals of each partner against their performance.
With this, you can create a reward system for your learners based on their performance. For instance, rewarding marks. free periods or exam waivers for the most hard-working learners.
Like I said before, the strategies to adopt will depend on the type of learners you have. Consider Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development, whenever you plan learning materials for your students. We recommended that you use a diagnostic pre-assessment, motivate learners, set expectations, and track/reward learners’ progress.
Try our strategies on how to move learners out of their comfort zone and let us know how well they worked for your students.
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