Isn't it all about willingness to take risks and try new ideas without knowing whether they will work or not? The question is if risk-taking is encouraged in education. I suspect the answer is no. The general trend is to play safe, otherwise you might fail your exam or risk criticism from colleagues, students or parents. Playing safe means resisting change and that's all too common in education today no matter how much we enthuse over the enormous opportunities that are available using digital media. Even if we present a compelling case for change the same arguments always come echoing back:
- It's too expensive, we can't afford all that just now.
- There's not enough scientific evidence that it works.
- Your ideas sound very interesting but we have to deal with real world problems before we can consider all this high tech stuff.
- Aren't you being a bit too optimistic? We tried all that 10 years ago and it didn't work.
There's an article on this theme in Faculty Focus by E. Shelley Reid called Teaching Risk-Taking in the College Classroom. We need to create an atmosphere of risk tolerance where you get credit for innovation even if it isn't as polished as playing it safe.
"Risk taking and right-answer achieving can appear to be contradictory goals for students in our classrooms. When the correctness stakes are high and no other criteria are visible, everyone plays it safe. If we want our students to take risks, we need to create classrooms in which, at least in some designated zones, risk taking is more visible, accessible, and desirable than the alternatives."
Encouraging risk-taking leads to new discoveries and learning opportunities. Students and pupils need to realize that they are learning for their own future, not to please the teacher or examiner. You could say that if it's not in the exam, it's probably worth learning.
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