5 New Teaching Techniques To Make Your Lesson Antifragile


As the characteristics of our learners change, teaching techniques must change too.  Below you'll learn new teaching techniques inspired by Nassim Taleb's newest book Antifragile.

My sister has fragile wrists.  At the age of eight, she fractured both of them at the same time.  Poor girl.  Later, because her wrist bones were weakened and more fragile by the initial breaks, she broke them again (at different times).


My sister's wrists would be the opposite of more fragile if after her initial breaks, they strengthened.  Being the opposite of fragile is antifragile.  Things that strengthen from stress and error are antifragile.

Today we salute Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  Taleb is not like the others.  The Pragmatic TV Teacher embraces unconventional ways to improve instruction.  For that reason we give Taleb a big ol' bear hug because he has a lot to teach teachers.

Antifragile is Taleb's most recent book and is a mind spinning mess worth your time.  Where as his other books had a refined focus, Antifragile is more of a wandering thought process.  For that reason, I found it more readable than his others.  It had more flavor and I felt more engaged.

Antifragile is about the complexities of life.  It defines how systems are strengthened through randomness, error, and uncertainty.  Let's apply his thoughts to education.

5 New Teaching Techniques To Make Your Lesson Antifragile is about strengthening your instruction by embracing the things that make us quesy: randomness, uncertainty, error, stress, and recovery.



1.  Randomness
Embrace the unexpected in education.  When was the last time your school year/semester/quarter/week/day/lesson/activity went as planned?

"NEVER!"

That must mean that you are an ineffective educator... OR that deviance is an innate characteristic of education.

To embrace randomness in the classroom, learn to teach in the moment.

Teaching in the moment requires confidence.  Three steps will help:
-know your content so you can facilitate the unplanned deviations by injecting relevant information into the discussion
-learn to recognize students seeking attention who will derail the discussion; they normally smirk rather than smile when asking a question
-refuse to take a side-teaching in the moment often involves controversial issues and as soon as you choose a stance, the moment is over

2.  Uncertainty
YOU are certain about the components in your lesson, but keep your students in the dark.  There is some merit to posting the daily schedule so certain types (and I write that carefully) know what to expect.

Uncertainty causes your students' emotional arousal to increase.  Anxiety is too strong of a word; not knowing what is coming next is a very small emotional cue.

Keeping them guessing isn't cruelty, it causes emotional stimulation and emotion encourages and facilitates the brain's ability to learn.

Smooth transitions, clear expectations, and activity facilitation ensures that you stay in control when keeping your students in the dark about lesson progression.

Further, unexpected activities is thought support to facilitate creativity:

"In short, some research, on natural and artificial contexts show that creativity is related to the unusual and unexpected events and experiences"

Unexpected events facilitate the creativeness by jumpstarting a variety of though processes leading to insight and/or conceptual expansion.

3. Stress
Weightlifters physically harm and stress themselves every time they put a weight in motion.  Their bodies predictably respond by getting stronger so it can withstand the same stressor in the future.

Stress has negative connotations associated with it, and rightfully so.  I am not advocating that you sadistically stress your students.  But teachers can use stress to their advantage.

 For example:
-time limits and deadlines cause cooperative group effort to function more efficiently
-assignment submission expectations force attentiveness

Expectations communicated clearly create behavior guidelines.  Adhering to those guidelines can be considered "stress."


Responding to a deadline or submission guideline will encourage the learner to adapt and grow so similar stressors are easier to deal with in the future.

In other words, mental stressors cause cognitive function to grow so it can withstand similar situations in the future; it learns what worked the first time.

4. Allow for and expect errors and mistakes
We fear error.  We fear making a mistake.  We fear both from not only ourselves, but our students.  Student error is psychologically translated into education ineffectiveness.  The teachers are at fault for student shortcomings.

It is time to change the way we think about mistakes.  Rather than ineffectiveness and suboptimal, lets associate error with doing and experience.

An educationally sterile environment that is accident free is bland and unengaging.  A bump in the road is not a bad thing, as long as we learn to avoid the bump in the future.

Remember: "experience is the name we give our mistakes." Oscar Wilde

5. Recovery
Allow time to recover from error, stress, uncertainty, and randomness.  Recovery is learning.  Allow time to learn.

If learning occurred instantaneously, we'd all be geniuses.  Recognize that just as an athlete must rest after physical exhaustion, our students need time to process, package, and store information.

To summarize, 5 New Teaching Techniques To Make Your Lesson Antifragile stresses that variability is an innate characteristic of education.  Rather than swim against the current, learn to embrace and work with it.  Keep in mind that what we consider negative (error, uncertainty etc.), induces growth when handled appropriately.

Thanks for reading.

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