We learn from our mistakes. Let's make a lot of them!

Informal term for a very simple philosophy of learning, as well as the methods and knowledge required to use it in teaching.

The basics of risk learning deal with the instinctive fear of failure, which nearly all learners experience. In risk learning, the learner is encouraged to take risks, knowing that they most likely will lead to mistakes. There are two main gains from this: The learners rate of learning will increase, and the learner will experience many of the common problems related to the topic or skill being learned.

I have most luck in explaining risk learning when taking an example of my own experience: When learning spanish, entirely from scratch, I had a private tutor (this was in Guatemala, making it affordable). First day I was introduced to a few basic pieces of grammar and some common words. My homework for the next day was to write a joke in spanish. The nature of jokes prohibits you from using only easy grammar and few words; if you do so, the joke will rarely retain its point or, especially, its punchline. Therefore, I was forced to use grammar I did not understand and words I did not know.

Naturally, the result was riddled with bad grammar and wrong words. However, this brute force method had kicked my brain seriously into gear, allowing me to handle the remaining parts of this entirely new language far easier. In essence, risk learning, when accomplished well, makes the learner more daring. Also, the fact that we learn from our mistakes (far better than from success, in fact), makes the learning much more effective. Both these effects speed up the rate of learning.

The main barrier in applying risk learning is the mentioned fear of failure, which will often make unprepared learners freeze up or simply refuse (some consciously, some subconsciously) to proceed. The most important component of succesful risk learning is moral support. A 'risk teacher' (not a formal term!) should have a cheerful and comforting attitude and always, always make sure the learner feels OK with his or her mistakes. It is vital, that the learner is first made to believe, that it is OK to fail. One method for this, mainly usable when risk learning is to be used a lot on a learner, is to have the learner routinely participating in challenges clearly (some would say ridiculously) beyond his or her ability. A common choice is to have the learner participate in regular chess matches against someone far outmatching him/her. Since the learner expects to fail, it will not have the same traumatic effect, and in time, the learner should get used to working against all odds. Thus, failure will not agonize the learner, and risk learning can be undertaken more intensely. The increase in motivation and confidence of succesful risk learners can be partially summed up in one students words: "Looks tough, but I've seen worse".

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