Teaching Risk-Taking

What is a risk-taker? Is it someone who mountain climbs without a safety harness? Someone who is brave enough to jump out of a plane? Could it be a student who gets up in front of his/her class to present?

Being a risk-taker looks different based on different students’ personalities and the IB subject, but the trait is distinguishable when we see students stepping out of their comfort zone. This won’t be easy and it won’t always be successful, but as an IB teacher it is important to encourage our students to take risks in their learning, knowing, and experiencing.

Here are ways to encourage your students to be risk-takers:
  • Before a lesson where risk-taking may need to occur (a group presentation, reading out loud, using art to represent an idea), talk to your students about what taking risks in this lesson will look like. For example, if I were asking students to read aloud for the first time in the year, I may say: “Today we will be reading aloud. For some this may feel intimidating. But I ask you to be a risk-taker and step out of your comfort zone. The reason I want you to read aloud is to begin practicing speaking in a loud, confident voice to prepare for your internal assessment.” When students know what is expected of them, why it’s being expected, and when they feel understood (acknowledging this may be intimidating), most students will take the risk.
  • Incorporate this Learner Profile trait into a rubric to encourage students to take risks. Add one criteria about risk-taking. For example:

Criteria: Risk-Taking
3 - Student clearly showed traits of being a risk-taker.

2 - Student attempted risk-taking behavior.

1 - Student struggled taking risks.

  • Remind students that taking risks will look different for different students, and ask them to reflect on ways they can be a risk-taker. Quiet students may take a risk when answering a question aloud in class. Stubborn students may take a risk when they ask a student with a different opinion to elaborate instead of interrupting with their own thoughts. A student without a computer at home may take a risk when they ask a classmate to work together on a digital assignment, or get a library card so he/she can use the computer at the public library. There are many other examples as well. What examples can you and your students come up with?

  • Create lessons that encourage students to take risks by being independent in their learning. How can you facilitate and guide their learning while requiring the students to be more in control of their learning? For example, instead of lecturing plan a trip to the school’s media center or library for student investigation, or have students get into small groups to read and their share out what they learned, or use a learning app to put together the pieces of a concept.

How do you encourage your students to take risks in their learning?

Share your strategies below in the comments.

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