Beghetto’s "Beautiful Risks": A Review
What risks have you taken lately in your classroom? Are you more likely to see risks as reckless or worthwhile?
In Beautiful Risks: Having the Courage to Teach and Learn Creatively, Dr. Ron Beghetto describes how we can look at and think about risk-taking in our classrooms so as to minimize the hazards and optimize the benefits. Good risks are ones in which the personal benefits outweigh the negatives, bad risks are just the opposite, but it’s the beautiful risks that are the focus of this book. These are risks that have the potential to lead to creative contributions that benefit the whole classroom community.
Establishing and maintaining a creative classroom is a beautiful risk. There is no exact step-by-step process for it, and creativity inherently involves uncertainty and ambiguity. But there are substantial benefits to having a classroom in which students generate and share new thinking, and have the confidence to create. It is worth learning when and how to take the beautiful risks necessary (and when not to!).
With a firm grasp on the balance teachers must walk between pedagogical experimentation and their content standards obligations, Beghetto provides a measured approach and a gentle nudge to open up classrooms and curricula for creativity. Each chapter addresses the potential costs and benefits to the beautiful risk described in addition to providing examples to take ideas from theoretical to practical.
Prepare to embrace uncertainty, get brave enough to “go off script,” and learn to plan creative openings in your daily lessons. This book is perfect for the careful educator who wants to incorporate more creativity into his or her classroom, but is concerned about doing so responsibly. Here we share our favorite three takeaways:
We can take beautiful risks in the way we respond to students’ unusual ideas and answers in the classroom, which Beghetto calls “curricular ruptures.” Instead of just saying “No” to an incorrect answer and moving to the next student, we can take a moment to explore the student’s thinking. When we let ourselves “go off script,” we give room for students to share their creative thoughts, which increases creative confidence and potentially enriches the learning of all the students. At the same time, the author models weighing the costs and benefits so that we can learn to recognize when to take the risk and when we might not want to.
Many of us overplan in the attempt to ensure we are prepared with an appropriate lesson. The problem with overplanned lessons is that they often have the task, the process, and the outcome clearly defined, leaving little to no room for creative input from the students. Beghetto encourages taking an overplanned lesson and leaving out one or more aspects of the required components (the task, the process, or the outcome) in order to open up the lesson for creativity. Instead of trying to come up with a whole new curriculum, this is a simple way to start incorporating creativity into your teaching.
Our intentions in the decisions we make in the classroom are not always how they are perceived by our students. Within the beautiful risk of establishing a creative environment, we must be careful to address the potential hazard of our students interpreting our actions in ways that stifle their creativity. This may include our classroom management system or the way that we track students’ goals and progress. Beghetto provides the example of a data board that tracks student progress in a fun, seemingly engaging way, but because it rewards quick progress and correct answers, it actually discourages students from taking their time and coming up with novel, challenging ideas. We must check in with students and work to ensure their experience reflects the value we want to place on creative expression.
After reading this book, perhaps you’ll feel empowered to bring even more creativity into your teaching. Let us know what beautiful risks you take!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sara Smith is an educator, learner, and creativity professional. She holds a Master of Science in creativity from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY College at Buffalo. Sara is compelled by learning and its intersection with creativity, and her vision is to create and support creative communities that help people to grow and to nurture their passions and strengths.