From fail-safe to safe-to-fail pedagogies: A self-study of teacher education practices

Year: 2016

Author: Garbett, Dawn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For teacher educators to stay innovative and adapt to the unique and dynamic contexts of their own practice, there is need for experimentation. Safe-to-fail pedagogies are small-scale experiments that approach issues from different angles, in small and safe-to-fail ways. The intent is to approach pedagogical issues in contained ways to allow emergent possibilities to become more visible and open to reflection. In this presentation I will discuss a self-study of enacting a safe-to-fail pedagogical strategy in a teacher education setting to provoke a meaningful debriefing of a practicum experience with student teachers. Self-study has a strong tradition of making implicit practice explicit for student teachers. Exposing the teacherly decisions in order for student teachers to see behind the façade of making good teaching look very easy (Russell, 2007) has become standard in my practice. Berry (2007) has also grappled with the tension between exposing uncertainty in her teaching while maintaining the confidence of her students that they may view teaching as uncertain and problematic. Coupled with this tension, Berry considers challenging “safe” practices in teacher education, i.e. those that serve to reproduce the relatively safe and comfortable experience that connotes typical adult-learner interaction. Data sources included a personal professional journal that detailed my proposed plan and learning intentions; my reflections immediately after the session and students’ immediate end of course evaluation and feedback. In addition, one of the students in the course agreed to act as a critical friend to provide an alternative perspective and challenge my initial interpretations. The analysis helps to highlight that acting in unexpected ways can draw attention to the fragility of a student-teacher relationship. Setting up a safe-to-fail environment requires emotional investment. Learning from such pedagogical practices is visceral route into critical reflection.ReferencesBerry, A. (2007). Tensions in teaching about teaching. Understanding practice as a teacher educator. Dordrecht: Springer.Russell, T. (2007).How experience changed my values. In T. Russell & J. Loughran (Eds), Enacting a pedagogy of teacher education: Values relationships and practices (pp. 182-191). London: Routledge.