What would happen if we invited uncertainty into our classrooms? If you’re not sure how to answer this question, you’re not alone. What makes this question difficult
is that most of us don’t like uncertainty. It’s uncomfortable. We do our best to avoid uncertainty and if we
experience it, we attempt to quickly resolve it.
In the context of classrooms, educators often
replace uncertainty with overplanned learning expe-
riences. We go to great lengths to clearly define the
problems our students will solve, how they should
solve them, and the desired outcomes. There are
benefits in doing so beyond maintaining a sense of
consistency, calm, and control; students can and do
learn from routine problems and assignments (Lee &
The key limitation to these types of learning experiences is that they don’t give students opportunities
to engage with uncertainty. Just as you can’t learn to
swim if you never get in the water, students won’t
learn how to respond productively to the unknown if
we never give them opportunities to do so.
What if instead of trying to eliminate uncertainty,
we welcomed it into our classrooms? Doing so
requires a shift in how we think about uncertainty and
its place in fostering problem solving. Five strategies
can help us make that shift.
Five strategies to help students respond well to uncertainty—
Ronald A. Beghetto
and foster complex problem-solving skills.