Risk Taking in the Classroom

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Risk Taking in the Classroom

The International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) has a list of character traits they endeavor to cultivate in their different programmes. This group of characteristics are referred to as the IB Learner Profile and there is one trait on this list that I want to explore with you as it is often misunderstood: being a ‘risk taker’. When quizzing students on what this means I often get replies such as taking part in an activity that would involve danger such as sky diving, bungee jumping or missing a coursework deadline. However, the IBO are referring to an intellectual risk taker, one who takes risks in the classrooms to develop their understanding of a topic.

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A risk taker in the classroom would have a growth mindset and approach questions with an attitude of trying, failing and then trying again. Often, we want students to get the right answer or a perfect answer straight away, however, that is not the way the process works. Students should not be disheartened by getting something wrong either in class or in a test. They should take it as a learning experience whereby trying something is better that not trying at all. I take this approach in the Mathematics I study in my spare time; I will not look at a problem for hours without trying some approach as trying to develop a strategy, even if it is wrong, gets me closer to the correct strategy. This means that if we question students at home or in the classroom, if they get the answer wrong, we shouldn’t then give them the right answer but critique what they have said in order for them to recalibrate and try again. This process is much more useful than just giving the correct answer which will not help them long term. An engaged student is one who takes risks and ventures a solution no matter how confident in it they are. 

Written By
Thomas Housham
Assistant Headteacher – Secondary & Head- Sixth Form