Head of Learning Enrichment

The Importance of Challenge

Last week I attended a course where one of the activities required us to reflect on our life and pinpoint our most significant learning experience. As my mind flashed back over the past years, one moment in particular popped into my head. It involved me making a very embarrassing mistake – missing an exam due to a scheduling mixup – an error that cost me time, money and a great deal of pride. While I would get over my mistake in time, it remains significant in my life because it was such a major catalyst for change – and it happened while I was out of my comfort zone. I realised that it is how you react when challenged that makes all the difference.

Thinking of this brought to mind the many memorable and wonderful learning experiences I shared with the girls on Year 9 Outreach to Far North Queensland. Many of the girls were trying new things they had never done before and I’m sure many of them felt challenged and out of their comfort zones at times. I know, however the memories and the learning experiences will stay with them for many years to come and they have grown from the amazing experiences they all shared.

An article I recently read by Professor Geoff Masters AO, CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research echoes this theme. It discussed the challenges of maximising learning for students. Here he was writing about attitudes to learning for more able students but I think what he writes rings true for all students.

‘Learning depends on a willingness to embrace and learn from lack of success. This is a matter of mindset. More advanced students who have worked largely within their comfort zone can develop ‘fixed’ mindsets about their ability, as well as negative attitudes to failure. For them, lack of success is something to be avoided rather than embraced as a learning opportunity.’

Outreach is just one example at Loreto where we teach girls that challenge is a good thing and a mechanism for learning. Stepping outside your comfort zone isn’t easy. You may stumble at times but that’s OK – missteps are inevitable and essential part of the learning process. As the old saying goes, we can all learn from our mistakes. This discomfort can change students’ perceptions of what they are able to achieve, which is a sure-fire pathway to success. The main thing is that we do not become complacent and too comfortable so that we can grow, change and fulfill our true potential.

 

Ms Zoe Hudson

Head of Learning Enrichment