Learner Safety

Learner safety indicates that you feel safe to engage in the discovery process, ask questions, experiment, and even make mistakes—not if, but when, you make them. Without learner safety, you will likely remain passive due to the risk of acting beyond a tacit line of permission. In children, adolescents, and adults, the patterns are the same: We all bring inhibitions and anxiety to the learning process.

Key concept: When the environment belittles, demeans, or harshly corrects people in the learning process, learner safety is destroyed.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

While individuals can remain relatively passive in the stage of inclusion safety, learner safety requires them to exert themselves and develop self-efficacy. They are no longer spectators. The transition to learner safety means crossing into the anxiety of the unknown. When learner safety is present, the leader and team may even supply some of the confidence that the individual lacks.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Learner safety implies activity and participation within defined limits.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

There are three patterns of fear-inducing emotional danger that remove learner safety and create a state of risk: (1) neglect, (2) manipulation, and (3) coercion.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Key concept: When the environment punishes rather than teaches, whether through neglect, manipulation, or coercion, individuals become more defensive, less reflective, and less able to self-diagnose, self-coach, and self-correct. That introduces the risk of real failure—the failure to keep trying.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Where learner safety exists, the leader creates a learning process with low social friction and low emotional expense. That requires levels of respect and permission that go beyond inclusion safety because the learning process itself introduces more risk, more vulnerability, and more potential exposure to social and emotional harm.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

The moral imperative to grant learner safety is to act first by encouraging the learner to learn.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 45)

We need to remind ourselves that we don’t command learning, we invite it. The climate we create feeds the desire and motivation to learn. In an ideal setting, learner safety is a mutual giving and receiving of ideas, observations, questions, and discussion. If leaders are to meet learners where they are, you may need to back up and begin by supplying the inclusion safety that’s been absent. I have yet to see learner safety where inclusion safety is absent. One builds on the other.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 46)

In every learning context, consciously or not, we assess the level of interpersonal risk around us.

A hostile learning environment, whether at home, school, or work, is a place where fear elicits the self-censoring instinct and shuts down the learning process.

Learners rarely put forth the effort to learn unless learner safety is in place. It’s a “build it and they will come” principle. If you don’t build it, they may still come, but they won’t learn.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (pp. 44–47)

Craig maintains that slow students are not less intelligent students. They simply assimilate at a slower pace, so his focus is on student effort rather than aptitude. That ability to resist making discriminating judgments of students’ abilities is a skill, but it’s also a moral capacity, and one that many teachers don’t have the discipline to develop.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Craig invites students to learn without adding fear to a subject that already creates its own. He recognizes that students who are emotionally distressed—anxious, angry, or depressed—are cognitively impaired and don’t learn well, so he fosters a challenging and yet nurturing climate of learner safety to dramatically reduce learning risk.

Based on his extraordinary perceptive capacity and ability to ward off compassion fatigue, he has mastered the art of shaping the social, emotional, and cognitive context, in creating a figuratively “clean, well-lighted place” where the whole student can flourish. This is learner safety.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (pp. 50, 52)

A space holder is someone who can create and hold a safe space for a person so they can be themselves around them, knowing they will not be judged, they will be understood, valued and have an authentic meaningful connection.

As adults, we need to try and be embodied, calm and grounded to support our children to regulate, rather than expecting a child or young person to modify their behaviour themselves or change for external reward systems. We need to be a space holder for them.

Embodiment and Sensory Systems

We can create space for iteration. We can create space for failure and revision.

Keynote: The Game Has Changed – Cornelius Minor | CTRH! 2023 – YouTube

But potential is invisible to the superficial gaze.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

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