My Goal This School Year Is to Get Students More Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

by | 10.2.19

I start off the school year by going over the scientific method with my students. I ask if they know what a hypothesis is, and they say, “A hypothesis is an educated guess, and then you collect data, and you prove it right or wrong.” And I say, “Well, it’s a little bit more than that. I’m going to tell you a fact: There has never been a hypothesis proven correct. That’s not what science is.” 

They’re shocked. I tell them, “You’re right that a hypothesis is an educated guess, but it has to be falsifiable.” I want to start the school year with the idea that a big part of science, and of learning, is being comfortable with being wrong. 

It’s hard for students to make themselves vulnerable like that. Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It’s having the courage to show up, fully engage, and be seen when you can’t control the outcome. I find that when they walk into my class, students are so worried about being right. They’re conditioned to stay in their comfort zones and are afraid to take a risk or share an idea. I want them to know they can take a chance, and if they’re wrong – it’s no big deal. That’s how we learn – especially in the field of science.

To help students embrace their vulnerability this school year, I will invite them to set individual academic goals each week in their science journal:

At the end of the week, I will ask students to reflect on why they did or didn’t achieve their goal. Then, I’ll ask students to think about what changes they can make to overcome challenges or improve their methods for achieving their goal the following week:

This gives students the ability to recognize how their strengths and weaknesses relate to their performance, enabling them to recognize behaviors that improve their learning.

I will also remind students of their accountability to their own learning. While this is a responsibility, I will frame it as empowerment: They can take success into their own hands. With that in mind, I will work with students to identify habits that contribute to their learning. Once students feel empowered, they can change their mindsets, work with and collaborate better with classmates, and promote their own and each other’s success.

You can check out my Daring Classroom Assessment or my Effective Effort Rubric, in case you’d like to try something like this, too. 

I’m planning to pre-test and then retest at the end of each trimester.

Here are some resources that informed my thinking: 


About the Author

Keith Piccard
Keith Piccard

Keith Piccard is a teacher in Michigan. Follow him on Twitter @keithpiccard.

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