Growth zone model
One of the tools in our 'tool box' is the 'growth zone model'.
This is a tool that we wish to share with every STEM teacher and every STEM learner. It is a tool familiar to many teachers of physically risky skills such as climbing, swimming and caving. We take studying STEM subjects to be psychologically risky, in that currently many people learn to be anxious or avoid them.
The growth zone model helps learners understand their emotions as they move from comfortable, mastered knowledge into learning, reasoning, connecting and developing more challenging knowledge. Sometimes learners when they are challenged can get ‘out of their depth’ psychologically speaking, and start to panic, and not feel able to think clearly.
If this is not addressed effectively, learners may start avoiding STEM subjects; avoidance is a strategy that works for physical risks; the 'alarm system' in the brain doesnt tell the difference between physical and psychological risks (see Siegel's lovely book 'Mindsight').
Some learners report that panic or feelings of anxiety happen very quickly when they encounter challenge in mathematics in particular. The symptoms of this panic may not always be easy to read by teachers and other adults working to support learning, as learners develop ways to hide them. However, learners and teachers can develop language both to express feelings of being out of control and not able to think, and to request the support they need so that they can stay in their growth zone longer.
A more complete description is available to download free from https://nrich.maths.org/13491