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Transition process and the learner

Change management is a well-know process. Going through transformation we experience massive learning. In this article you will learn in which transition phase you are currently in, and which instruments you need to develop as a learner.

Why did I choose this tool?

This tool is an integration of 4 different models describing how to cope with transition and merged with the concept of learning zones. This is the first time it is published, in the Trainers’ Library.

How does this apply to being a trainer?

The trainer as a facilitator of the group process is also sometimes challenged by his own personal issues. Going through change doesn’t belong explicitly to the participants, it is a state which more or less equally touches everyone. Therefore, it is extremely important to wisely navigate in the transition. It is also of great importance to be aware of our role as a trainer and learner at the particular moment of the training, so as to learn how to understand ourselves during the change.


Change touches us in almost each moment of our life. In that moment while we are waiting for a bus that doesn’t arrive on time even though it has precise schedule, or trying to drive a car but the engine won’t start although it’s new—what happens then?

Very often our first reaction is that we disbelieve it happened, we try several times to start the car engine, we double check the bus timetable several times and it is still beyond our perceptual understanding why things didn’t happen as expected. When we finally receive the information that the bus will not arrive, and the car will not move, we feel strong emotions of anger, unfairness, sadness etc. After this we need tо give up on the initial plan and start finding a new solution.

Then among many ideas we need to choose one and proceed with solving the problem.

This process was illustrated by a great story by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, 1998.

Positive change begins after answering crucial question:

“What Would I Do If I Wasn’t Afraid?”

In the story of two little people and two mice which are looking for cheese in a maze Spencer Johnson explains the ground rules: 

  • Change Happens – They Keep Moving The Cheese
  • Anticipate Change – Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
  • Monitor Change – Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
  • Adapt To Change Quickly – The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
  • Change-Move With The Cheese
  • Enjoy Change! – Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
  • Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again – They Keep Moving The Cheese.

How to learn in a process of transition?

Let’s integrate 2 models and 2 strategies:

  1. The model developed by Clae Janssen in the late 1960s Four Rooms of Change was part of a research on the dynamics of the change.

Four rooms correspond to 4 different states of mind while coping with change:

    1. Contentment
    2. Self-Censorship and Denial
    3. Confusion and Conflict
  1. There is a second well-known model: The Learning Zone model developed by Tom Senninger.

He describes 3 zones (environments) of learning, also referring to the learner’s state of mind:

  1. Comfort zone – where things are familiar to us; we feel comfortable and don’t have to take any risks. The Comfort Zone is important because it gives us a place to return to, to reflect and make sense of things – a safe space.
  2. Learning Zone (sometimes called also Stretching Zone) – which lies just outside of the secure environment. There we can grow and learn, live out our curiosity and make new discoveries, and thus slowly expand our Comfort Zone by becoming more familiar with more things.
  3. Panic Zone – wherein learning is impossible as it is blocked by a sense of fear. Any learning associated with negative emotions is memorized in a part of the human brain that we can access only in similar emotional situations.

When we merge those two models “The Four Rooms of Change” + “The Learning Zones Model” and we add two more strategies:

  • the Power of the Questions by Marilee Adams, Ph.D., described in her book “Change your questions, change your life”, which underlines that the way we ask question creates our life. She grouped questions into two categories: The Learner Path and Judger Path.
    The first one would be characterized by open, non-judgmental questions: What happened? What do I want? What are the facts? What assumptions am I making? What can I learn?,
    The second category, leading to “JUDGER PIT” was: Whose fault is it? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with them? Why am I such a failure? Why are they so stupid? Why bother?
  • and the BASIC Ph Coping Model developed by Dr. Mooli Lahad, Director of the Community Stress Prevention Center in Qiryat Shmona, Israel. The model suggests that people possess six potential characteristics or dimensions that are at the core of an individual’s coping style. Everyone has the innate ability to utilize each dimension as part of their approach towards coping: Belief (B), Affect (A), Social (S), Imagination (I), Cognitive (C), Physiological (Ph)

We came to following strategic model:

„The SIMPLearning” integrative model of a learner


  1. The Stage of Satisfaction – it is when things are familiar to us; we feel content, comfort and don’t have to take any risks. We even have no desire to change anything. The phase when we learn things for our pleasure, by having hobbies, reading books, following our passion.

Then unexpected interruption comes = change, transition, new circumstances.

  1. The Stage of Impasse – comes when something has radically and unexpectedly changed in our environment. In this phase we can firstly react with panic and then transform it into denial – we pretend that nothing happened, we prefer to stay in an illusion of the old reality (the one before the change). In this phase learning is impossible, as it is blocked by a sense of fear, or narrowed perception. Experiences of being in this phase are frequently traumatic, and any sense of curiosity is shut down. By using different strategies (BASIC Ph , Learner questions etc.) we move to the next phase.
  2. The Stage of a Maze – it is a moment when we are realizing the world has changed, and there is no way back. We are experiencing different emotions like: anger, sadness, self-doubt, lack of energy, resignation. We may believe there is no hope, and no solution. We may have the impression that we were trapped in a maze. We need to face all those feelings. We need to come to the moment to leave something behind and start a renewed life. Even though it might be a challenging moment, it would be still a time of massive learning. Our curiosity guides us to the moment when we’re starting to look for new solutions. And that leads us to the last stage before the Satisfaction:
  3. The Stage of Powers – it’s a time of many possibilities, we may have more energy, have a feeling of renewed power. We can recognize that we have changed internally, sometimes even physically. We have more ideas, self-esteem and the power of creativity. We are definitely in the phase of learning and massive personal development. Unfortunately, we can’t stay in this phase forever, even though it looks great, too much time in this state of mind requires lots of energy, and there is a danger of getting back to the maze or even the impasse. So, make a choice and enter the phase of Satisfaction! 

With a lifetime, the Stage of Satisfaction becomes more developed and sustainable.

Reflection questions:

1. In which stage are you now? Mark on a graph.

2. Design your journey to another stage. What could have helped you?

3. How does this model reflect you as a learner?


Author of the article: Tatjana Glogovac

Tatjana Glogovac is a strong believer in the power of humanistic education and approaching every person she works with as a special and unique human being. She has a BA and MA in English Language and Literature Teaching and another MA in Humanistic Sciences in Philology (Erasmus Mundus scholarship), where she wrote her thesis about cognitive biases in education. She has international experience as a personal development writer, yoga and meditation teacher, and a youth circus teacher. Tatjana has been active in the fields of digital learning and developing emotional intelligence in youth. The last project she worked on was Erasmus+ strategic partnership project “The Colors of Feelings and Needs”, the aim of which is to support youth in acquiring and developing the ability to identify, express, interpret and reflect upon their own feelings and needs. Tatjana is passionate about bringing mindfulness, embodiment and dance practices into formal and non-formal education.

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Editor: Dagna Gmitrowicz

Dagna Gmitrowicz – a senior trainer in the field of nonformal education, conducting international/national training and facilitating conferences since 2001. Creator of innovative educational tools and curriculum – Academy of Nonformal Education (PAJP), TOSCA training cycle, learning cycle in BECC Bridge to Cultural Centres, Colours and Needs cards, and many more. Member of several international trainers’ pools (It’s up to Me, TOSCA, European Solidarity Corp Polish NA pool and other). The member of the International Society for Self-Directed Learning after giving a lecture during SSDL Symposium 2020 in USA/Florida. Dagna Gmitrowicz is also a professional painter, and performer actively participating in a cultural scene in Germany and Poland, actively supporting cultural events and projects.
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The Learning Zone Model: Rajka Markovic and Zvjezdana Dragojevic, Croatia Workshop II. Traumatology © 2016 American Psychological Association, 2017, Vol. 23, No. 1, 27–34 1085-9373/17/$12.00, , From Victim to Victor: The Development of the BASIC PH Model of Coping and Resili-ency, Mooli Lahad“Change your questions, change your life” by Marilee Adams Ph.D. (Author)Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, 1998.The "Basic Ph" Model of Coping and Resiliency: Theory, Research and Cross-cultural Application by Mooli LahadThe Learning Zone Model by Tom Senninger

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