Uinta County School District #1
November 2018-Newsletter, Vol. 33
ESCAPE FROM THE ZERO-LEARNING ZONE
We know that learning is essential for professional success, self-efficacy, healthy relationships, and well-being. However, when opportunities to learn present themselves, we frequently turn away. Offered the chance to learn, we choose instead to move into what I call the Zero-Learning Zone.
What is the Zero-Learning Zone?
We step into the Zero-Learning Zone whenever we act, consciously or unconsciously, in ways that block our own learning. For example, we might be shy about how we appear on camera and therefore turn down the chance to learn from video recordings of a lesson. We might say no to an opportunity to work with a coach; dismiss feedback from a colleague, principal, or student; adopt beliefs that isolate us from new ideas; blame others; or make excuses that shift responsibility away from ourselves and onto someone else. There are many reasons why we take a pass on an opportunity to learn, but before we explore how to get out of the Zero-Learning Zone, we have to take a look how we get there in the first place.
Blindspots. We often miss the chance to learn because we do not see that we need to learn. James Prochaska, an expert on the personal experience of change, and colleagues identified the first stage of change as pre-contemplation--not realizing we need to learn so that we can change our situations (Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClimente, 1994). Because of perceptual errors such as confirmation bias, habituation, stereotypes, primacy effect, and recency effect, we don't see reality clearly. As researcher and social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson has written in No One Understands You and What to Do About It (2015), "The uncomfortable truth is that most of us...can't see ourselves truly objectively" (p.4). A principal, for example, might not see how much time he wastes on unimportant issues during staff meetings until he watches a video recording of a meeting.
We don't think the learning is worth it. Two factors need to be in place for us to grow and change (Patterson et. al, 2008). First, we need to believe we can do what we are considering. Second, we need to believe that what we are considering is worth the effort. If either factor is missing, we are much less likely to embrace the opportunity to learn or change. Teachers who are introduced to new teaching practices may forgo implementation because they can't see the practice as working or because they can't see themselves mastering the new strategy.
Identity. Our deepest learning experiences usually challenge us to re-think "the stories we tell ourselves about who we are" (Stone & Heen, 2015, p. 23) and reconsider what kind of people we are, our efficacy, ethics, and overall place in the world. But we are resistant to any experiences that causes us to re-evaluate what we think to be true about ourselves. It's much easier to just say no. "Learning about ourselves can be painful--sometimes brutally so," write Stone and Heen, "and the feedback is often delivered with a forehead-slapping lack of awareness for what makes people tick. It can feel less like a 'gift of learning' and more like a colonoscopy" (p.7).
Hope (or, more precisely, its absence). Gallup Senior Researcher Shane Lopez (2013) summarizes a three-part process for hope, first identified by University of Kansas researcher Rick Snyder. To have hope we need goals, "pictures of the future [that] identify an idea of where we want to go, what we want to accomplish, who we want to be" (pg.24). Second, hope involves agency, our belief that we have control over our lives and that we can meet our goals. Finally, we need to have multiple ways of getting to the goal. Lopez suggests that when we lose hope, it is often because we lack one or more of these three factors. And when people do not have hope, the easiest place to go is the Zero-Learning Zone.
Fear. When I discussed the Zero-Learning Zone with colleagues, a word I heard frequently was fear. We might be afraid that we are going to embarrass ourselves or fail. This emotion also overlaps with the other Zero-Learning Zone factors. For example, we may fear the unknown impact that learning might have on our identity. A loss of self-efficacy. Confronting our own hopelessness and blind spots. You get the idea.
A well-known education researcher told me that he believes fear blocks learning when people embrace a partial answer to a challenge or problem, creating the illusion of a comprehensive solution. That "solution" can become so entwined with our identity that we seek out proof that our ideas work, rather than information that would help us learn. A partial, if flawed, solution can feel better than risk or uncertainty. But real learning only occurs when we confront our fears and move forward.
-Jim Knight, Nov. 2018 Vol. 76 No. 3, Educational Leadership ASCD, Pg. 20
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Contact Kristine Hayduk at 789-7571, ext. 1023 with any questions.
Cheri Dunford, Supt., Board Exec. Assistant Ext. 1021
Dr. Joseph Ingalls, Assistant Superintendent K-5 Ext. 1026
Doug Rigby, Assistant Superintendent 6-12 Ext. 1025
Alicia Johnson, Instructional Services Admin. Asst. Ext. 1024
Kristine Hayduk, Human Resources Ext. 1023
Matt Williams, SPED Director Ext. 1040
Diana Olson, SPED Admin. Asst. Ext. 1041
Bubba O'Neill, Activities Director Ext. 1060
Dauna Bruce, Activities Admin. Asst. Ext. 1061
John Williams, Business Director, Ext. 1030
Jaraun Dennis, Facilities Director, Ext. 1075