The Learning Challenge is needed because so many students avoid challenge or give up at the first signs of struggle. In a systematic review of 18 studies about the effects of giving students control over their learning, Abbey Karich and her colleagues found that most people choose tasks that are well within their capabilities so as not to risk failure (Karich, Burns & Maki, 2014). Those who do step out of their comfort zone are often disheartened by setbacks or worried about looking silly in front of others. These anxieties can be compounded by the notions that a) it isn’t normal to struggle (when in fact it is); and that b) those who struggle will never be successful (whereas the contrary is true – success in any field of endeavour typically involves overcoming difficulties and disappointments).
By being honest about these difficulties and frustrations – as well as offering strategies that can be used to overcome such obstacles – the Learning Challenge can help to reverse the trend of students staying within their comfort zone. Indeed, tens of thousands of educators in schools across the world are already using images of the Learning Pit to illustrate the likely sequence of events when learning something new; teachers are also using the Learning Challenge framework to plan lessons that place desirable difficulties at the heart of student engagement.