The comfort/stretch/panic model

Educationalist Karl Rohnke came up with the concept of the comfort/stretch/panic model for learning. Whatever we’re learning, we all have a comfort zone, a stretch zone and a panic zone.

Comfort zone

We’re dealing with the familiar and the comfortable. There’s no pressure on us, and no push. From a learning perspective, this is a safe but boring space.

Stretch zone

We’re encountering the new and unfamiliar, or being asked to do things we’re not confident we can do. We risk stress and/or embarrassment. This discomfort is a positive sign from a learning point of view.

Panic zone

We’re so far outside our comfort zone that we’re pushed into fight or flight mode. All of our resources are focused on dealing with the stress we’re feeling. This leaves no space for learning.

An effective learning experience will cycle between comfort and stretch zones. Start in the comfort zone, then get pushed into the stress zone, then back into comfort to reflect, integrate learning and recharge our batteries.