From Low Risk to High Risk

studentsYou already know that learner-to-learner interactions – paired, small groups, or class discussions about content – significantly increase long-term memory of the information being discussed. But the problem most trainers face is how to begin that kind of interaction when learners don’t yet know each other and don’t feel psychologically safe with each other yet.

A feeling of psychological safety is crucial to effective learning. Safety means being able to make mistakes without being put down, to ask questions without being ridiculed, and to state opinions without being judged. In other words, learners feel accepted and respected by you and the other class members.

The most powerful way to create a feeling of safety among learners is to begin with low risk activities first. Low risk activities are those that are easy, quick, and that do not require learners to speak in front of the whole group. High risk activities do the opposite: they usually require individual learners to speak to the whole class, either because the instructor calls on individuals to answer questions or because the individual must make a content-related presentation in front of the class.

Here are three low risk activities that are short (1 – 3 minutes), easy to do, and that quickly create a feeling of psychological safety among learners:

Pair-Share: Learners turn to someone seated next to them, introduce themselves, and share one fact they know about the topic, something they want to learn about the topic, or something they want to be able to do with what they learn.

Think and Write: Learners think about the topic, then write a short summary of what they already know or what they have heard about the topic. They can also write their own personal learning goals or three questions they want answered during the training. If time allows, follow this activity with a Pair-Share: learners share what they have written with the person seated near them.

Standing Survey: Learners stand and gather facts about the topic from participants from other table groups. When they return to their own table group, they share the facts they’ve collected with their own table group members.

Click on the SHARON’S ARTICLES page for more low risk activities that create a feeling of psychological safety among learners.

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