Counseling & Special Ed,  Education


Course No. ED476t, ED576t

The notion of the “comfort zone” has been in the cultural lexicon for quite a long time. However, not many people talk about what lies outside the comfort zone. While we might recognize that, by definition, discomfort is outside of it, we don’t necessarily understand all the nuances that can be present with discomfort. In this course, you will dive deeply into a metaphorical “map” that helps to define and develop discomfort so that it is useful, nuanced, and not just an unknown sea. In addition, you will explore the “roads” that can help you navigate your way – and assist you in helping your students navigate their way– around this map. Ultimately, the map is a form of metacognition that gives language and a visual tool for navigating learning. You will be reading, watching videos, writing reflections, and planning ways to bring this visual tool and/or language into your classroom and teaching in ways that make the most sense to you in your specific context. 

This course is appropriate for all teachers who wish to engage in personal reflection and growth regarding the role of discomfort in learning. Teachers in all grades might find appropriate ways to include the map and the roads in their classroom as a metacognitive tool for students. 

Required text: License to Learn: Elevating Discomfort in Service of Lifelong Learning by Anna Switzer, Ph.D. (2020, Atmosphere Press), is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Good Reads, and my website ( If you order through my website and let me know you are in the course, I can inscribe your copy. In addition, as of January 2024, an audiobook version is available through Spotify, Audiobooks, Google Play, Chirp, Kobo (Walmart), and hoopla. Note that if you go this route, you'll also need to download the file of images that are a foundational part of the book. This file is called the "License to Learn Visuals" and you can find it on my website for $6.50. 

We advise you to review and download the course syllabus before registering. Syllabus
  1. Reflected on your relationship with your own and your students’ discomfort.
  2. Drawn a map of the zones that include and lie outside the “comfort zone.”
  3. Explained the influences of trauma on learning and on the zone map. 
  4. Reflected on your “triggers” as a teacher.
  5. Recognized the effects of how you handle mistakes, feedback, and assessments in your practice.
  6. Synthesized your thoughts and feelings about the role of discomfort in learning.
  7. Named and described the “roads” that assist one in moving around the map of zones or in knowing where they are.
  8. Reflected on what it takes to reach a state of awe or reverence.
  9. Discerned your current learning edge(s) and considered the existence of the gift zone. 
  10. Built your discomfort muscle by playing with new questions and ideas.
  11. Considered new ways to create a culture of safety for all students.
  12. (Re-)Synthesized your thoughts and feelings about the role of discomfort in learning.
  13. Created lesson plans for sharing some portion of the map with your students as a common language and teaching tool. 

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