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The Benefits of Risk-Taking in the Classroom

A smiling teacher works with her students.

Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, and Vera Wang all built their careers on taking risks, and while they found fortune, the benefits of risk-taking far exceed the possibility of wealth. Risk-taking empowers people, increases self-esteem, and builds resilience to failure. Teaching risk-taking in the classroom helps students grow both academically and personally.

What Risk-Taking Looks Like in the Classroom

Risk-taking involves putting oneself in the position of potentially losing something to achieve a goal. Classroom risk-taking can take many forms, such as reaching out to new friends, trying a new method of note taking, or stepping up to a leadership position in a group project.

Teachers can incorporate risk-taking into the curriculum to create a culture where students feel safe. Doing so encourages students to experiment and persevere if they fail, according to Everfi. Teachers can implement risk-taking in the classroom in small ways, known as micro-risks.

Peer-Based Learning

One way to implement risk-taking in the classroom is to create a peer-based learning environment. This model begins with students brainstorming ideas individually. They then share their ideas with one other peer before finally presenting them to the whole class.

This method allows students to start with a small risk—presenting a new idea to just one person—and then, after receiving feedback and validation, they will feel more confident in sharing with the whole class, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Teachers can promote this practice by encouraging students to challenge the status quo or to create new solutions to existing problems.

Student Blogging

Teachers can also encourage risk-taking through writing by having each student start a blog. Blogging allows students to express themselves to a broader audience. They can take risks on their own terms, deciding how open and vulnerable they want to be. Teachers can assist by giving writing prompts that encourage them to take writing risks. For example, they could ask students to create a story about an impactful moment in their lives and publish it. To mitigate the risk of exposing too much personal information on the internet, students could post anonymously or within a classroom blog that only their peers can read.

Sketching Notes

Teachers can allow students to experiment with their note taking, finding a solution that works best for them. Teacher and blogger John Spencer recommends sketching notes as a creative outlet for processing material. This practice may not work in all class scenarios, but teachers can ensure at least part of a lesson is conducive to this form of creativity, which could improve students’ retention. For example, during a history lesson, teachers might have students draw an event, including important details and labeling key figures. Experimenting with a new note-taking method may increase understanding of a subject and result in better academic outcomes.

Benefits of Risk-Taking for Educators and Students

Allowing students to take risks not only helps them academically but also better equips them to succeed later in their lives. The benefits of risk-taking also extend to educators.

Benefits for Students

When taking a risk results in a successful outcome, students see an increase in their self-esteem, according to Educational Endeavors. If teachers cultivate a supportive environment, even when risk-taking fails, learning that the consequences of failure are manageable can make students more resilient.

Risk-taking can also lead to learning new skills. Being encouraged to take a risk in class allows students to try something different; while they may find that they don’t enjoy a new task, they may also emerge with a new passion.

Other benefits of risk-taking can include empowering students to make life choices, making new friends, and learning how to fail and grow from failure.

Benefits for Educators

When educators encourage their students to take risks, they are also taking risks themselves, which can lead to better classroom environments. Taking risks helps educators face their own fears and create innovative solutions in their classrooms, according to EdSurge. One example is a flipped classroom, where students watch lectures on a new subject before class and then complete assignments in class with one-on-one teacher attention. In this scenario, the educator takes a risk with innovation, with the potential of improved student outcomes and more personalized attention for each student, but it requires a willingness to break with the familiar approach to teaching.

Taking a risk can also allow educators to reignite their passion for teaching, build their own confidence, and serve as an example for their classes, potentially showing what failure looks like and how to learn from it.

Importance of Modeling Risk-Taking

By modeling risk-taking, teachers can inspire students and give them confidence. Teachers can model risk-taking by acknowledging their own shortcomings. For example, if they make a mistake in class, teachers can point it out and describe to the class how they plan to rectify the situation.

Social learning theory states that children learn from the people around them, according to Modern Teaching Blog. The first step toward making students comfortable with risk-taking is allowing them to see their teachers take risks. To model risk, teachers can do the following, according to teacher and blogger John Spencer:

  • Apologize for mistakes, admitting faults
  • Ask students to evaluate their teaching
  • Share the personal risks they are taking outside of school
  • Discuss some of their previous failures and how they learned from them

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