All of us work through problems in ways of which we’re unawares. Researchers in the late 1960s discovered that humans are born with the capacity to approach challenges in four primary ways: analytically, procedurally, relationally (or collaboratively) and innovatively. At puberty, however, the brain shuts down half of that capacity, preserving only those modes of thought that have seemed most valuable during the first decade or so of life...While I can't claim to be adventurous in all areas of my life, I do find that I am willing to "stretch" professionally. The William Wordsworth quote which kicks off the article seems to highlight the frustrations I have with most of my peers (and groupthink at large within the district): "Not choice, but habit, rules the unreflecting herd."
Ms. Ryan and Ms. Markova have found what they call three zones of existence: comfort, stretch and stress. Comfort is the realm of existing habit. Stress occurs when a challenge is so far beyond current experience as to be overwhelming. It’s that stretch zone in the middle — activities that feel a bit awkward and unfamiliar — where true change occurs.
So, what do we do about that? How do we help our peers move from a comfort zone to a stretch zone...without stressing them? What are the most important areas for this? Technology? Grading? Instruction?
And for kids? If their brains are going to "pick two by puberty," which ones do we want most deeply ingrained? The article suggests that the current standards-based climate emphasizes the first two...but I'm thinking that one from the first pair and one from the second pair might be more valuable. In truth, I like the second pair (collaboration, innovation) best; but having worked with a few people who fit that description, I can say that it's frustrating. You never actually get to a point where you can make actual plans and figure out the details. Mind you, all of the ways of forming habits are available throughout a lifetime---but they are not equally relied upon. As teachers, which do we value most in our students?
You cannot have innovation, unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder. How do you help yourself make that move?