Learning does not happen when people become anxiety-ridden. Feeling stressed-out eliminates the state of mind which support authentic learning. Small amounts of stress can function as a welcomed challenge or inviting game obstacle. Yet when stress exceeds that moderate level, our minds become preoccupied with anxiety relief. We need to get the agitation out of our systems by taking out our frustrations on others, displacing it in revenge fantasies or transforming it via either physical exertion or relaxation. Learning is a luxury we cannot afford when we have become a stress-case.
Stress can be added from several situational sources:
- A learner may show up with chronic anxiety unrelated to the place where learning is meant to happen.
- The instructional design may be a misfit to the level of understanding, the subsequent uses of the new input, the pace that accommodates the learner, or other parameters of "what works for the learner".
- The delivery may come at a bad time, cause problems with other commitments or inconvenience several different people in other ways.
- The people interacting with the learner may be already experiencing anxiety that infects others, or they may become agitated through the involvement with the stressed-out learner.
- The management system may hold the learner and others accountable for the learning, penalize a lack of results or withhold rewards for slow learning which all contribute to anxiety-producing pressures.
- The social context of peers may be sharing the same anxieties as well as providing peer pressures to perform better or more poorly to avoid getting ostracized.
- The larger context (family, job market, industry rivals, economy, international instability) may offer looming uncertainties which fuel worries, distractions and sleep disorders.
- the learner keeps trying to learn the same way that feeds chronic stress in spite of blatant evidence that personal anxiety is over the top
- the instructional design, required materials and educational processes remain unchanged in spite of countless "users who found it useless"
- the delivery sticks to the same schedule, pricing, requirements, and paperwork in spite of evidence that calls for lowering people's anxiety levels immediately
- the management system "turns up the heat" when it becomes obvious the current level of expectations and consequences has not convinced people to make more effort
- the social context becomes more cynical, antagonistic or intolerant of those who demonstrate the tattered remains of commitment, confidence, or ambition in the face of this adversity
- the larger context becomes more imposing, threatening and discouraging as vast networks within it are not learning