Discover 6 ways to create tension in your learning experiences, why it's important, and how it will cultivate learners, stimulate critical thinking, and boost knowledge retention for transformative learning.
Tying Tension into Learning
Do you remember the struggle of learning how to tie your shoes? Your uncoordinated fingers had to be pinched just right, your uncooperative laces had to be turned just so, and you were likely chanting catchy rhymes about bunnies meant to help you master the art of looping your shoestrings.
I’m sure you can remember the frustration you felt when you circled the lace around the wrong finger or over-pulled on the string, tragically unraveling all your hard work. You may have been tempted to give up, thinking you’d be the only kid who’d be doomed to a life of eternal velcro. But with practice, persistence, and just enough hope, you finally experienced the thrill of securing strings into a pretty bow.
Transformative learning experiences happen through engaging and challenging moments. Learning designers call this tension, and it’s a powerful element to keep in mind when you’re looking for ways to elevate the effectiveness of your learning experiences. By intentionally creating tension, you can foster deeper engagement, critical thinking, and lasting knowledge retention. Let’s explore the importance of tension in learning with actionable examples to help you infuse tension into your own learning initiatives.
Why is Creating Tension Important to Learning?
Tension leads to re-tension…ahem…retention! Learning experiences that take advantage of tension will lead to learners who are more engaged, more likely to utilize critical thinking, and more likely to retain the learning.
Tension Enhances Engagement
Tension captivates learners' attention and drives active participation. It creates a sense of curiosity, intrigue, and excitement, motivating learners to invest their energy and focus in the learning process. Just like learning to tie your shoe, when learners are handed a challenging yet attainable task, they can’t resist the urge to keep trying until they can get it just right.
Tension Stimulates Critical Thinking
Tension challenges learners to think critically, analyze information, and make informed decisions. It prompts them to explore multiple perspectives, consider alternatives, and engage in problem-solving, fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter. You can up the tension by mixing up your learning experiences with role-playing, timed challenges, or restraining resources to get your learners to think about things differently.
Tension Promotes Lasting Knowledge Retention
Learning experiences that involve tension are more likely to leave a lasting impact on learners. The challenges and obstacles they face in a tension-filled environment create memorable learning moments, enhancing knowledge retention and transfer to real-world applications. Tension brings with it a sense of pride and accomplishment, which results in memorable learning moments.
6 Ways to Create Tension in Learning
Now that you know what tension is and why it’s important, let’s take a peek at a few examples of how you can sprinkle tension into your learning experiences ASAP.
Present learners with realistic, complex scenarios that require them to apply their knowledge to solve problems. These scenarios can mirror real-life challenges, and learners must navigate through the tension and uncertainty to arrive at viable solutions.
Utilize simulations or virtual environments that replicate real-world situations. These immersive experiences immerse learners in a high-stakes context, pushing them to make decisions, manage resources, and handle the consequences of their choices.
Time Pressure and Constraints
Introduce time pressure or resource constraints in learning activities. This encourages learners to prioritize, think quickly, and adapt to limited resources, mirroring real-world situations that demand efficiency and effective decision-making.
Present learners with ethical or moral dilemmas that require careful consideration and decision-making. This challenges their value systems, promotes critical thinking, and encourages them to navigate through conflicting options.
Assign learners to work collaboratively on complex projects that require diverse skills and perspectives. The dynamic nature of group work introduces interpersonal tensions, fostering negotiation, compromise, and effective teamwork.
Move beyond traditional assessments by incorporating authentic, performance-based evaluations. These assessments simulate real-world tasks, providing learners with the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills under pressure.
Intentional Tension in Learning Requires a Careful Balance
Creating tension in learning experiences is a powerful strategy for engaging learners, promoting critical thinking, and facilitating lasting knowledge retention. By infusing tension into your learning initiatives, you can inspire curiosity, drive active participation, and create memorable learning moments. Embrace problem-based scenarios, simulations, time pressure, ethical dilemmas, collaborative projects, and authentic assessments to design tension-filled learning experiences that empower learners to navigate challenges and achieve meaningful growth.
Remember, tension is not about overwhelming learners but about providing them with opportunities to overcome obstacles and demonstrate their capabilities. Harness the power of tension to unlock the full potential of your learning initiatives and foster transformative learning experiences.
What are some other ways you can create tension in your learning experiences? Share your ideas in the comments below!
You can learn more about creating tension along with 20 other actionable learning habits in Erin’s book, Learning in the Wild.
We help organizational leaders level-up their learning experiences. To learn more, email us at email@example.com.