Building a Classroom Community, part 3

Hannah Chandler

Creating an environment that supports risk taking

In a collaborative classroom, students share their work, think aloud, ask questions, and work together. For this sharing and collaboration to be effective, they must feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. Creating an Environment that Supports Risk Taking

You can help students understand that mistakes are a very valuable part of the learning process and that working through mistakes and confusion helps them learn and understand more. Mistakes also give teachers wonderful opportunities to learn about what students understand and can do. We want students to regard mistakes, their own and those of others, as rich opportunities for learning.

Here are a few ways to help students feel safe taking risks and learning from mistakes:

  • Focus on the variety of ways in which students solved a single problem. Give students time to work through their own confusion.
  • Don’t correct them at the first sign of a mistake.
  • Encourage students to be supportive of one another’s learning process.
  • Celebrate the risks that students take. For example, you might call attention to the courage it took for a student to ask a question and share a piece of work, focusing on their willingness to share and desire to learn.

This is not to say that getting the right answer doesn’t matter. It does. You want your students to develop the skills and understandings that will permit them to solve problems reliably and accurately. Toward that end, it is essential to help students learn to identify and address their own mistakes and to persevere when they encounter difficulty solving a problem.

Hannah Chandler is a curriculum writer for MLC.