Encouraging Risk Taking in the Classroom

riskIn 1564, English author, poet, and publisher produced the book A Dialogue Containing the Number in Effect of all the Proverbs in the English Tongue.  One of the most well-known and often recited proverbs from this publication is as follows:  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This wise adage reminds us that action and risk taking are necessary components of achievement.  

Humans are naturally inclined to some level of risk taking when conditions are conducive.  In the article Taking Beautiful Risks in Education author Ronald Beghetto shares the following suggestions for helping create a classroom conducive to academic risk taking:

  1. Redefine success.  Success in the classroom isn’t always just about a black and white correct or incorrect response.  It’s also about exploring content, asking big questions, pursuing deeper levels of knowledge, and representing understanding in unique ways.  Help students recognize that success may look different from task to task.    
  2. Share failures.  It’s important for students to see that teachers are not perfect all the time.  Tell stories of when you tried something new and it didn’t quite work out. Explain to students what you learned from the experience and how it made subsequent attempts better.  It’s also important for students to share their failures in a similar way. Create opportunities for such reflections and dialogues. 
  3. Think about the possibilities.  “What if . . . “ is a great way to start a conversation that leads to discussion of possibilities.  It opens doors and can lead students to take academic risks to further explore their content and learning.

As you prepare for your upcoming lessons, think about how you can encourage your students to step out and try new things in the safe space of your classroom.  You and your students will be glad you did!

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