Taking Risks in Your Teaching

professor with students

Often in workshops when I’m speaking about the process of implementing change—deciding what to change and how to change it or considering whether to add a new instructional strategy—the question of risk lurks in the choices being considered. When attending a workshop or program that offers a range of instructional possibilities, teachers typically respond to some favorably. I see it—they write down the idea, nod, or maybe ask a follow-up question to be sure they understand the details. Not all the ideas presented get this favorable response. Occasionally, the response is overtly negative. But more often there is no response. The idea doesn’t resonate.

When I ask participants to look over their notes (I love teaching faculty because they do take notes) and share what criteria they used to select the new ideas they’re considering implementing, the responses are pretty nonspecific: “I liked it.” “It’s something I think I can do.” “I can use it when I’m teaching X.” I think they are really saying, “This approach fits comfortably with who I am and how I teach.” We first gravitate toward instructional changes that mesh with current practices and the content we teach. We choose them because we can see ourselves doing them.

And I think that’s a legitimate criterion, especially for less-experienced teachers. You need to construct a solid base of instructional practices that work for you, given your content and the students you teach. But when you’re an experienced teacher, sometimes you want to move beyond the comfortable, easy to implement, I know-I-can-make-it-work alternatives. Instructional risk-taking has merit. Anytime we do things outside our comfort zone, we do so with a heightened sense of awareness, greater mental acuity, and, yes, more fear. The possibility of failure is a reality when we’re doing something that we haven’t done before. But the possibility for new insights and new levels of understanding is also a reality.

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Read more @ http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/faculty-development/taking-risks-in-your-teaching/

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