How can educators encourage students to take ‘risks’ in their learning?
When I think about risks, I think about what things help me to be a risk taker. For me the four most influential ways of tackling risk are: (1) Seeing other people accomplish similar goals, (2) having someone push me to do something I'm scared of through positive reinforcement, (3) having an end "reward" (not necessarily an award, but a feeling of accomplishment), and (4) seeing the benefit of the risk at the end of the journey.
As educators we can encourage students to take learning risks by modeling how to take these risks ourselves. I admit sometimes this is hard for me, as I am a worrier. However, in the classroom I try to take on a more confident role, work through my worrier side, and troubleshoot when I'm feeling uncomfortable in my situation. For instance, in 2012 when I was asked to give the graduation speech I immediately said no, but with student encouragement and pestering (haha) I made the leap. I'll be honest, I was scared to death to speak in front of all those people. However, I used skills I knew would help me in stressful situations to take the risk. I know as a learner that if I practice something ahead of time (especially when I'm trying to communicate information verbally), I am less nervous and more apt to successfully accomplish the task/goal. So I did. I practiced for nearly two months and when it was time to step out in front of the crowd I did and with an air of confidence. You would of had to of been in my mind when I finished my speech, because I was pretty darn impressed with how I had defeated this fear. It's these types of examples that students need to see in order to feel like they too can take risks, especially in their learning.
In my classroom, I've found many uses for the blended-gamified science model. One of which is pushing students to be risk takers. For instance with students moving at their own pace, I've been able to encourage my lower achieving students to take more risks in their learning. They are more apt to ask me questions, collaborate with their neighbors, and discuss ideas they have because of the small learning setting that has been put in place. They are also more encouraged to explore their own passions through the incorporation of Genius Hour in the classroom, especially when the end product entails them being the expert on the content. I also see risk taking factors when competition is a part of the learning process. For instance, students will work incredibly hard on a challenging assignment/project if they know that this assignment will help them climb the leaderboard or give them special powers. They are willing to take the risk because there is a reward or accomplishment at the end.
As a teacher, I believe the two most important things to encourage students to take risk are: (1) students need to understand that in learning the awards most often outweigh the risks. Pushing yourself to achieve goals, failing, and then trying again are the best ways to understand yourself as a learner and what you are capable of, and (2) that taking risks really is a mind-over-matter reality. You are often your own worst enemy. Yes, tasks can sometimes be fearful, but the more you push yourself and explore those risks the better you'll be at tackling them.