A model I’ve used several times is Marilyn Taylor’s learning cycle. Her work is not widely published but there is a reference in this PDF from NALD (see page 51). You can also read about the model in Making Sense of Adult Learning.
Taylor observed university students in classrooms, and saw a pattern of Disorientation, Exploration, Reorientation, Equilibrium. Each stage took different periods of time with each student, and not all students completed a full cycle during a formal course. The successful students were the ones who could work through the entire process and continue into another cycle. When students are shown the cycle, many get an “ah ha ” moment and realise that their confusion (disorientation) is quite normal.
According to Taylor, disorientation is a natural state in formal education:
Stage 1 – Disorientation: The learner is presented with an unfamiliar experience or idea which involves new ideas that challenge the student to think critically about his/her beliefs and values. The learner reacts by becoming confused and anxious. Support from the educator at this point is crucial to the learner’s motivation, participation and self-esteem.
Working and learning in our information-rich environments with constantly changing tools and business rules presents us with frequent periods of disorientation. As learning specialists, one of our roles should be to help people with their disorientation and exploration. Our first step should be to communicate that disorientation is quite normal. This may be a greater task than it appears because even acknowledging personal disorientation could be professional suicide in certain organisational cultures.
I think that we should be helping people adapt to life in perpetual Beta.
In information intensive work environments (which are almost everywhere), there will be longer, and more frequent, periods between disorientation and reorientation. That means that we have to be comfortable exploring options and possibilities, even though we lack a solid mental framework or easy solutions. Artists do this all the time and now it’s necessary for all of us.