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I chatted with our teaching and learning group recently about the qualities of an effective learner. We were talking specifically about the need to be a risk taker. As teachers and leaders we work hard to ensure that classrooms are safe, secure environments where children are allowed to take risks, indeed they are encouraged. I asked the group if they felt this was the case and they confirmed that staff certainly encouraged them to ask questions, share ideas and make points. They said the big problem in class wasn’t the support of staff but leaving themselves open to ridicule from their peers.

The big obstacle to a risk taking classroom is the reaction it provokes in others. Children will be reluctant to ask questions and share ideas if they believe it will prompt a negative reaction. So what, I asked the children, can we do about it? We talked about the need for classes to establish ground rules such as:

1. Respect others opinions and be sensitive to feelings
2. Be supportive and encouraging
3. Ensure any feedback is constructive
4. Be honest and objective

If something like this can be agreed at the beginning of the year and reviewed regularly it will foster a greater sense of confidence in learners, enabling them to take risks and make mistakes, comfortable in the knowledge that such actions are the route to effective learning.

I have asked the children to think about what a good set of ground rules might look like for the different classes, it would be great to share with them what different schools around the world do to promote risk taking and what ground rules they agree with their students. Please share your thoughts and ideas.

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