The Journey

The Journey

The path to a self-organizing classroom (where students are empowered, collaborative, and aligned to meet their goals) is often not a leap, but, a series of steps. It is a journey.

Four Learning Zones

Like in any journey, a map helps us to get there. The 4 Learning Zones maps out the terrain. As a map has longitude and latitude, the 4 Learning Zones has 2 dimensions: collaboration and empowerment.  These dimensions are degrees along a spectrum. The Learning Zones are formed where the degrees of collaboration and empowerment intersect.
One zone is not better than the other. You calibrate the zones based on the capacity of your classroom.  The only wrong zone is one that is the wrong fit. A zone that pushes too far can create anxiety and disorder, one that does under-challenges stunts your classroom’s growth. The intention is to grow the capacity for self-organization in a responsible way and structured way. 
We do that though scaffolding through different zones. Your path may zig zag, move forward, regress, and even sometimes leap. Your students are a dancing landscape, the Four Learning Zones give you frame so you can dance with it and adapt.

Unpacking the Four Learning Zones 

We achieve a more granular view of the Zones by unpacking collaboration and self-directedness by combining the Stratified Self-Directedness Model and the Levels of Collaboration.

An example of how one classroom’s journey through these zones can be found in this post.


  • What Zone are you in now?
  • What do these zones make available to you and your students?
  • How much are 21st Century skills evoked in that Zone?
  • What Zone do you want to move into?
  • What Zone resonates with you to move into?
  • What might hold you back from turning up the collaboration or empowerment dial?

1 Comment

  1. Unknown on 09/02/2015 at 1:52 pm

    I just finished a presentation to individuals who weren't ready to think too deeply about school set up in this manner – could have used either of these graphics to help support the vision I was trying to explain! Very nice.

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