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Kristina Garafalo
Shaelynn Long-Kish
ENG.111
4-15-16
Pushing Boundaries Aids Learning
Humans, for the majority of the time, do not seek the feeling of discomfort. For this
reason, challenges are often associated with negative feelings, and are pushed aside in a dark
corner to collect dust. Students are a perfect example of this phenomenon; most are willing to do
the bare minimum, and nothing more, to earn their desired grade in a class. Pushing themselves
beyond their comfort zones seems vacuous when less work can achieve their aspired goal.
Unfortunately, this practice hinders students instead of helping them. Without pushing and
challenging oneself, progress cannot be made, and students are not striving to reach their full
potential. In order to fully excel in knowledge and learning, an individual must be encouraged
and challenged to change his or her mind set and stretch the boundaries of their capabilities.
Three sociologists, Jack Mezirow, Roger Schank, and Elizabeth Kasl researched motivation and
achievement and provide insight related to required encouragement and challenges to stretch
student boundaries and capabilities. From their work, it is easy to see that stepping outside ones
comfort zone leads to superior learning.
Excelling as a student instead of merely going through the motions is the result of a poor
mind-set, as examined by Sociologist Jack Mezirow in his article, Transformative Learning:
The Cognitive Perspective. Mezirow theorizes the idea of Transformative Learning, the process
of eliminating negative biases or assumptions to allow them to be altered for improvement.
Mezirow states, Such frames of reference are better than others because they are more likely to

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generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true. (Mezirow). For example, a student
who entertains the idea that he or she is poor at a certain subject has negative prior convictions.
He or she would commit Transformative Learning to change this perspective, realizing that a
poor mindset is enabling these struggles. If one falsely concludes that these ideas of weakness
are true, trying seems almost nonsensical, and so, his or her capacity cannot be reached. Once
these limitations are eradicated, however, the student can excel. Pushing boundaries is involved
in this process because students must terminate their alleged faults to unlock their full potential.
Only after Transformative Learning has occurred can a student begin to reach their innate
capabilities. I have experienced the impact of mindset throughout my academic career. Many
classmates hold on to erroneous beliefs that they are poor in a subject or category. Their beliefs
came from earlier experiences. They fail to recognize related variables that impacted initial
outcome. Their mindset is continuously reinforced by avoiding future uncomfortable experiences
necessary to grow
Similar to Mezirows Transformative Learning Theory is Theorist Roger Schanks article,
Story Skeletons and Story Fitting. His article discusses the idea that stories can be manipulated
to fit the tellers own experiences and emotions. Different claims of the same experience can
warp the facts and make them sound like entirely different occurrences. Schank states, We are
the stories we tell (Schank). Schanks idea relates to learning and pushing boundaries because
students often alter their realities to compensate for their achievements or failures. A common
link between Schanks Story Skeletons and Story Fitting and Mezirows theory of
Transformative Learning is students failing to recognize major contributing factors to an
outcome, in an effort to protect self from feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable. For example, a
student who takes a test and aces it with minimal studying may believe he or she is brilliant; in

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all actuality, he or she may just have a fantastic teacher. Students may also use story skeletons to
attempt to understand their failures. Again, a student who fails a class may blame it all on the
teacher, claiming their instructor is incompetent. Really, the student may have put forth no effort.
In order for students to excel and attain knowledge, facts cannot be changed to make up for
reality. Once students realize the true cause of their failures or achievements, they can continue
or change their habits accordingly. Although avoiding story skeletons will ultimately allow
students to fully exert themselves and shine, it comes at the cost of allowing vulnerability and
discomfort.
Another theory, known as the Paradox of Diversity, also focuses of the gaining of
knowledge through expanding boundaries. Examined by independent scholar Elizabeth Kasl, the
Paradox of Diversity is the idea that different people all have diverse perspectives, and these
different views allow or disallow learning. Differing individual perspectives may encourage
students to understand concepts more in depth or prevent their understanding all together if they
cant understand others perspectives. Kasl explains that including different styles of teaching are
needed to expand students ability to consider other perspectives, those ways of knowing that
engage a learners imaginal and intuitive process. unlock different pathways to knowledge.
Challenging students to examine these multiple outlooks pushes them from their modest views
and promotes an enlarged perspective. (Kasl). The Paradox of Diversity is effective when people
are open-minded because they can learn from one another. When students are pushed out of their
comfort zones to consider other perspectives, they are faced with challenges and discomfort,
which strengthens their learning. However, becoming open to other perspectives is challenging
because it causes individuals to examine personal beliefs. Expanding own perspective for deeper
understanding often increases discomfort and vulnerability.

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Since the mindset is so vital in this process, students should attempt to think differently
of discomfort by focusing on the positive outcomes their struggles will provide. Discomfort often
shuts students down immediately when they are faced with daunting experiences and fear of the
unknown. Persevering through this initial feeling is most important because it opens the doorway
for more comprehensive learning to take place. Once this first obstacle is tackled, there will no
doubt be more challenges to come in the quest for knowledge. The benefit of understanding will
outweigh these feelings of uneasiness, however. Once students understand that their hard work is
reaping rewards, they will have reached a balance and no longer shy away from challenges.
Though the nature of humans is to avoid discomfort, it is required if one is to secure
complete knowledge. Biases of limitations must be ignored as students inflate their inherent
capabilities, because with these influences, learning cannot fully be accomplished. Achieving the
bare minimum may be enough to pass a class, but it does not let students reach their full potential
and stretch their minds. Without pushing oneself, progress cannot be made and vital gains will be
nonexistent. In order to fully excel in knowledge and learning, as supported by Jack Mezirow,
Roger Schank, and Elizabeth Kasl, an individual must be encouraged and challenged to stretch
the boundaries of their capabilities. Instead of shying away from the supposed nuisance of
expanding ones knowledge, it should be embraced and explored. Learners must understand the
value of evaluating and challenging multiple variables that impacted prior experiences and
shaped personal belief system. And learn the value of being open to examine all differing
perspectives. Although these practices increase discomfort and vulnerability, it is necessary to
reach grown and reach full potential.

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Works Cited
Kasl, Elizabeth. "Do I Really Know You? Do You Really Know Me? And, How Important Is It
That We Do? Relationship and Empathy in Differing Learning Contexts." (2015):
240. Web.

Kasl, Elizabeth. "Transformative Learning: Issues of Difference and Diversity." Meridian


University. Patricia Cranton, Edward W. Taylor, 26 Oct. 2007. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Mezirow, Jack. "Transformative Learning: The Cognitive Perspective." (2003): 268. Web. 20
Feb. 2016.

Schank, Roger C. Story Skeletons and Story-Fitting. (2006): 304. Web. 27 Feb. 2016.