Spanish Language Learning

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  • General Introduction - Stages Of Change Theory

    General Theory and Its Application To This Section

    This Project will use the "Stages of Change" theory as an underlying philosophy, as it applies to the Spanish language learning, an instances of change.

    The theory itself started in the Addictions recovery field and quickly spread to marketing and sports as well as many other fields in western society. Somebody noticed that when people went about changing a a behavior or practice, or way of thinking, they seemed to go about it in a fairly predictable way. Running through the stages of change can be quite rapid, in the case of minor choices at the supermarket, to many years, as in the case of changing deeply held beliefs or long-standing habits of life.

    For those of us in the helping or coaching or mentoring professions, the theory gives a useful insight into how one could be of great assistance without just being annoying. It was noticed that people did not have to be coaxed or co-coerced into moving through the stages to the final one, but rather people making the change would make such shifts automatically.

    The trigger for movement into the next stage was "when all the questions of the previous stage had been answered, and the issues addressed". In this sense people changed in a manner similar to a boat going up a series of locks to a higher body of water. When a lower lock is filled with water so that it is the same as the next higher lock, the doors are opened and the boat goes out and along to the next lock where the process is repeated. The role of the helping professional is to fill the lock, not push the boat.

    It is for this reason that it is important to notice exactly what issues are being addressed at each stage of change; what stage of change the particular person is on; and what is needed in order for the person to have all his or her issues and questions addressed fully.

    In the case of Spanish Language learning, the stages of change relate to a student's willingness/readiness to proceed with the learning project, and through to the successful carrying out of the project.

    The general details of each stage are these:

    Stage 1 - Pre-Awareness

    At this stage, the person is not aware that there is a problem in behavior or thinking. Life is going along quite normally. In sports a player is unaware that maybe a change in technique would improve performance. In marketing or sales the person is not aware that their old car would fail a safety test or is operating below emission standards. The person is "un-aware" or "pre-aware" of any issues at all.

    In order to be of help, somebody, a coach, mentor, intervention group, boss, spouse, friend, teacher, needs to "raise the person's awareness" of the issue of concern. That is all. Just raise awareness. In Community Development circles this is often referred to as"Concientization" (getting the corporation to become aware of the negative effects they are having by dumping waste into the environment...raising the issue to a level of consciousness).

    In Addiction circles, the "intervention" that is sometimes used is based on a double bind. The purpose is to get the person to agree to seriously consider change, not to commit to change. When significant others share their perceptions of dysfunctional behavior, they fully expect the person to reject any change, and expect the person to say "I can handle it on my own".It is at that point the person conducting the intervention says "great! we believe you will if you can. But in case you can't we want you to sign this paper that you will go immediately into treatment. Of course if you can handle it on your own, there will be no need for treatment, so you shouldn't have any problem signing."

    Once awareness has been reached, the person will automatically move into the next stage. Notice this has nothing to do with commitment to change or even agreeing with the need for change. That comes later. This is just an awareness issue.

    Stage 2 - Awareness

    Once a person becomes aware of the change opportunity, or the possible need for change, they need to "play with the concept". The need to 'try it on for size". They need to "take a few test drives". They need to spend a week in a seniors' home free of charge to see if it fits or not".

    In order to be of help, the person needs to be playful, and enter into the fun. In addiction circles, they will often say, "maybe you're not done your drinking...why not do a little more research and come back when you are ready...only if you need to, of course." And they joke about it quite openly with the person.

    The difference now is that the person is going about life with a new awareness. Their eyes are open to new factors in themselves and the world around them. The see new behavior in other athletes which they had not noticed before. They see cars on the street and on television. They are gathering information about "degree of fit" not about the issue itself.

    There will come a time when the person will have had sufficient information about degree of fit, to decide whether to drop the issue or to "seek out more specific information" and shift to the next stage.

    Stage 3 - Information Chasing

    When a person goes after information at this stage, it is with a high degree of focus and a keen nose for relevance to their own issue. In addiction circles, the saying is "90 meetings in 90 days, then decide about it". The reason is that in 3 months of exposure to the issues and people they will have gotten a pretty good exposure to the larger scene. A "three week residential program" seeks to condense that background info into 3 weeks. The degree of quality in the program varies so that is not always sufficient.

    In order to be of help at this stage, the helper needs to focus on providing information relevant to the questions of the person making the inquiries. The purpose is not to do anything except satisfy information needs. One thing at a time.

    When the person has sufficient information, they may choose to move into the next phase. It is often at this time that at lest some degree of commitment to the change process is made, but not always.

    Stage 4 - Trial Runs

    Once information has been gathered, a subtle shift takes place. The person now needs experiential information about what possible approaches there are to making the change, and this information needs to come from actual life experience. The person needs to try out some options in order to put together a package in the next stage. This stage is experimental, and does not involve implementation, . nor does it even involve commitment. The only commitment the person is making at this time is a commitment to experiment, and that commitment is one which is driven by an inner drive to work out an approach which is appropriate to his or her life in that particular life-context.

    The way a helper can be of use is to help the person both conduct appropriate experiments safely and to debrief the learnings afterwards. There may also be information needed of a practical nature which the person needs, and a need to keep perspective as to exactly where the person is in the change process. At some point the person will either abandon he project or commit to implementing a tentative plan for change.

    Stage 5 - Implementation

    Usually, by this point, if a commitment is going to be made to change, it has been made.

    The person now becomes quite focused on implementing the change process they have worked out in the next stage. The process if often a lengthy one, but in some instances, even in change-decisions which are very important, it can be very swift.The key factor here is that the person is no longer exploring options what is going on is plugging in change process for real.

    The helping person can be of assistance at this time by helping to carry out the change process, give helpful feedback, or see that it is gathered, help the person tweak their process or do major adjustments to aspects which do not work out in the long run. Long term change can be unnerving. Short term purchases can generate buyers remorse, and these sorts of experiences need addressing.

    Once the change process has fallen into a routine and life patterns have been adjusted to accommodate the new change, long term monitoring is helpful, as some issues do not emerge until a later time.

    Stage 6 - Transcendence

    Not everyone acknowledges this stage of change as being relevant. It refers to the time when the change has become so much a part of normal life that the person can hardly relate to or even recall the time before such a change was made. They have transcended the issue and gone on to other aspects of life.

    The helping person can be of assistance in celebrating such triumphs and drawing out learnings from the experience where appropriate. The person often becomes involved in healing others, but often as he senior person on a team, using the services of someone who still remembers clearly the issues of early change-stages.