Centre College’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Creative Thinking Faculty Fellow Lesley Wiglesworth, who is also an associate professor of mathematics, has been researching and investigating pedagogical strategies that encourage students to take risks academically and to think beyond the grade earned in a course.
“Many researchers agree that we are living at a time of significant change,” Wiglesworth said. “We are unsure of the future, but clearly, we need to venture out from familiar terrain.
“Wintrol and Jerinic argue that ‘Creativity, the conversation suggests, is the quality that will help us navigate these new lands, and educational institutions must somehow foster, develop and value it,’” she continued. “Moreover, I believe students need to see faculty members taking risks.”
The idea for her research came from the fact that several students have learned to define themselves by their ability to perform in an educational system that rewards them for delivering “what the teacher wants” and “correct answers.”
Wiglesworth explained that with standardized testing that predominates K-12 schools, students are only rewarded when answers are correct and are penalized when they are incorrect.
“They are never rewarded for the process,” she added. “This emphasis on ‘the answer’ is prevalent in all subjects but particularly in mathematics. Because students have been touted by a system that relies on testing and emphasizes ‘rote learning,’ students are often afraid to disappoint. As such, many students are playing it safe on assignments and are not taking risks in the classroom.”
Beginning her research in the classroom last summer, Wiglesworth has been working on two projects on the topic of risk-taking.
First, she is investigating the effects of classroom climates and student experiences on outcomes, as well as ideas for promoting risk-taking in students.
“I have used strategies learned at a past Creativity and Creative Pedagogies Workshop, as well as through readings, to create a learning environment where students are more comfortable being ‘wrong’ and speaking up with ideas for solving mathematical problems,” she explained.
Her second project deals with first-year and senior students focus groups. The goal of this project is to determine ways students are encouraged to take risks while at Centre, the positive outcomes, the negative outcomes, whether risk-taking is more prevalent in introductory or upper-level courses and how the academic push from a professor affects the student’s perceptions of the course.
This summer, Wiglesworth plans to filter through the collected data and put together a booklet for CTL. In addition to sharing her results with students and colleagues at Centre, she will present her research at a national pedagogical conference.
by Kerry Steinhofer
June 26, 2018