In this TED Talk, Eduardo Briceño talks about how people improve their performance of a task–and the answer is not to perform that task more often. The answer lies in the difference between what we do when we’re in two different zones: the learning zone and the performance zone. He says that the goal of our time in the learning zone is to improve. We evaluate our past mistakes, run drills to master a skill, get feedback, and expect to make mistakes within this zone. The performance zone is that time when our goal is to do something the best that we can and minimize mistakes. He suggests that we should all oscillate between these zones. If we just hang out in the performance zone and only ever try to do the best we can, then we will see less growth over time.
Think about successful baseball players. Even those already in the big leagues will spend some time in the batting cage to improve their form. They work with batting coaches to adjust their form and review videos of themselves hitting ball after ball, even though by any objective standards they are already among the best ball-hitters in the world. In the learning zone, they expect to try new things and make mistakes. It’s only on game day that they switch into the performance zone and do their best to perfectly execute what they practiced before. Without the learning zone, their performance would plateau and plummet.
How can we take Briceño’s learning and performance zone theory and apply it to online learning and course design? Easy! Incorporate more ungraded and low-stakes assessments in your course. Give them a chance to make mistakes and then practice the skills until they know the material well enough to perform on the high-stakes assessments. Examples of these learning opportunities could be to:
- Incorporate the publisher’s quiz questions as optional, ungraded self-assessments
- Include an interactive activity, such as a Storyline exercise or tutorial, in the course
- Ask questions in the commentary, and then provide a hidden answer that the student has to click to reveal
- Encourage students to make flashcards
- Use in-video quizzing
- Have students collect peer feedback on assignments before they submit the final draft
Your instructional designer can help with any of these activities and would be happy to brainstorm some more opportunities to help your students reach the learning zone.