Risk Taking - Steve Barkley

Risk Taking

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, the principal at the Oak Ridge Elementary school, Doug Huscher, started his staff development day with this statement posted:

How do we create a safe environment for risk taking?

Huscher, whose school posted a dramatic improvement in the state’s Academic Performance Index last year, said that risk taking had been an essential element in the turnaround.

I think Huscher’s question would make a great opening for a faculty meeting or professional development session. When I ask teachers to list the student behaviors that they believe can increase student achievement, risk taking is always on the list.

Hard to imagine that teachers who do not see themselves taking risk would create classroom environments where students take risk.

In classroom where students take risk one might observe students…

-sharing an idea or solution that they are unsure of

-comfortably making public mistakes

-trying on a new idea/process that the teacher has presented

-setting goals, plans to achieve them, and progress (publicly)

-asking for feedback and assistance

“If students are afraid of mistakes, then they’re afraid of trying something new, of being creative, of thinking in a different way.” (Alina Tugend author of Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong)

What does the teacher do to encourage risk taking behaviors?

Trusting relationships would certainly be a key…teacher and students and students with each other. Those relationships are often built around working cooperatively on common shared goals. That would mean the teacher working with students to establish learning outcomes more than reporting them to students. Celebrating attempts and progress is also often important. A TEAM if you will.

Can we carry the same criteria over to the staff?

In schools where teachers take risk one might observe teachers…

-sharing an idea or solution that they are unsure of

-comfortably making public mistakes

-trying on a new idea/process that the instructional coach has presented

-setting goals, plans to achieve them, and progress.(publicly)

-asking for feedback and assistance

What does the school leader do to encourage risk taking behaviors?

Trusting relationships would certainly be key…teachers and administrators and teachers with each other. Those relationships are often built around working cooperatively on common shared goals. That would mean the school leaders working with teachers to establish learning outcomes more than reporting them to teachers. Celebrating attempts and progress is also often important. A TEAM if you will….a quality professional learning community.

Here is a great activity to illustrate a risk taking faculty culture.

Brian Downing, principal at Okoboji High School in Milford, Iowa, describes Fed Ex Day as a professional development activity. Taking the idea from Daniel Pink’s writing staff is given time with the only requirement to produce…(deliver)

“So this afternoon, your task is to be self-directed in your learning. Be productive. Ask, am I better today than yesterday? Seek mastery in your role. Remember our ultimate purpose. The only rule? You must deliver. A product…a project…ideas…action.”

Teachers had from 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm to work with anyone they chose on any project they chose that would impact student learning. At 3:00 pm they had to deliver a status update.

The list of projects was phenomenal and a repeat of the activity has been planned.

Check Downing’s blog as he provides all you need to run with the idea….including the announcement to staff and the guidelines for the activity.

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One Response to “ Risk Taking ”

  1. terri Says:

    This looks familiar! I think risk taking is refreshing, so I’m glad you posted this comment. Good starter question.

    Terri

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