Try Again: Mercy is Necessary to Learner Safety

“Retesting clearly works, so I give endless chances. If you’re willing to work, there’s always mercy. You can try again.”

— Craig B. Smith

Craig invites students to learn without adding fear to a subject that already creates its own. He recognizes that students who are emotionally distressed—anxious, angry, or depressed—are cognitively impaired and don’t learn well, so he fosters a challenging and yet nurturing climate of learner safety to dramatically reduce learning risk.

Based on his extraordinary perceptive capacity and ability to ward off compassion fatigue, he has mastered the art of shaping the social, emotional, and cognitive context, in creating a figuratively “clean, well-lighted place” where the whole student can flourish. This is learner safety.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (pp. 50 – 52)

If you’re going to test, then retesting is essential to learner safety. Not offering retesting is ableist and exclusionary to those of us with spiky profiles.

Craig maintains that slow students are not less intelligent students. They simply assimilate at a slower pace, so his focus is on student effort rather than aptitude. That ability to resist making discriminating judgments of students’ abilities is a skill, but it’s also a moral capacity, and one that many teachers don’t have the discipline to develop.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 48)

Not offering retesting fails the imperative to encourage learning.

The moral imperative to grant learner safety is to act first by encouraging the learner to learn.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 45)

Learning is invited, not commanded.

We need to remind ourselves that we don’t command learning, we invite it. The climate we create feeds the desire and motivation to learn. In an ideal setting, learner safety is a mutual giving and receiving of ideas, observations, questions, and discussion. If leaders are to meet learners where they are, you may need to back up and begin by supplying the inclusion safety that’s been absent. I have yet to see learner safety where inclusion safety is absent. One builds on the other.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (p. 46)

Testing creates a hostile, uninviting climate fraught with inequity and incompatible with many divergent bodyminds.

Standardized testing is a plague on the school system that does little to hit its intended goals. If we are to measure success of our students, then we’re on the wrong path. Traditional standardized testing simply reflects the inequities present in society.

If standardized testing must remain, why not cater it to the elements we need to promote in schools? Why not have standardized testing that measures students’ intrinsic motivation to learn?

Or how valued they feel as individuals in their classrooms?

Just as scientists measure soft skills in research studies, we could redefine the testing scenario to one that provides actual information that’s valuable to schools.

Source: Primer: A Guide to Human Centric Education

Don’t make testing more fearful and inequitable by not offering retesting.

In every learning context, consciously or not, we assess the level of interpersonal risk around us.

A hostile learning environment, whether at home, school, or work, is a place where fear elicits the self-censoring instinct and shuts down the learning process.

Learners rarely put forth the effort to learn unless learner safety is in place. It’s a “build it and they will come” principle. If you don’t build it, they may still come, but they won’t learn.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety (pp. 44–47)

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