The i+1 Principle

What is the i+1 Principle?


“i+1” (Input Hypothesis) was originally a theory of learning developed by the linguist Stephen Krashen in the 1970s. It basically says that learning is most effective when you meet the learners’ current level and add one level of difficulty, like the next rung on a ladder. As a language teacher I always found this defined the whole process. The language of the classroom is kept just above the learners’ level, rather than hitting them with the whole dictionary straight away. But we’re talking about more than just language here, this applies to anything you decide to do.

How do I use the i+1 Principle?

I have started using the term in relation to motivation for literally anything. Another term, “comfort zone”, has been much overused, but it definitely applies here. With a language, if you keep on using basic parrot phrases for years, you’ll never get anywhere. You need to push out a bit, make a few mistakes, see some confused faces, get the wrong food order a couple of times – and then you get it. People who don’t like leaving that comfort zone don’t tend to learn. With motivation, as with language, people who don’t push out a bit don’t tend to succeed.

If you want to learn more about determination and the will to succeed, check out my article on Angela Duckworth’s fantastic book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, here: https://www.philwestern.blog/2020/07/16/grit-do-you-have-it/

The Problems

It’s really hygge in the comfort zone. If you feel like life is boring, ask yourself when the last time you were actually uncomfortable was. Without discomfort, there is no true success. The i+1 principle will get you that.

We tend to look at people doing something really well and see it as a fait accompli, or an innate gift, and not an expression of years of tireless work. Hendrix was just talented, right? Mozart was simply a genius. But what about the 8 hours of practice a day that Jimi did? And don’t believe what you saw in the film Amadeus. Putting it all down to talent takes the credit away a bit, doesn’t it? Raw talent definitely helps, but hard work wins out, every time.

Not Looking at the Whole Challenge

So, don’t focus too much on absolute mastery of a given challenge. Rather, break it down into bitesize chunks. Look at where you are as honestly as you can, and just add 1 difficulty point. For the beginner linguist, this means not messing up the restaurant order again, for the guitarist it’s getting that B diminished barre chord nailed. Maybe for you it’s just trying the challenge you’re a little uncomfortable with (without breaking a leg, or setting yourself on fire).

Perhaps Muhammad Ali said it best: I have learned to live my life one step, one breath, and one moment at a time, but it was a long road. I set out on a journey of love, seeking truth, peace and understanding. I am still learning.

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Hi, my name's Phil. I am a Content Writer and Producer. My background is a mixture of education, social media and management. I've spent a lot of my career working in Latin America and Spain, and I have a love for languages and education. I also have my own blogsite: http://www.philwestern.blog/

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