Why I’m stumbling with confidence



A few people have asked me why this blog is called ‘Stumbling with Confidence’?

The phrase stems originally from my research into university teachers’ conceptions and experiences of creativity in relation to learning and teaching, and I have used it in various papers and conference keynotes.

My research entailed interviewing a number of colleagues from across a range of disciplines – from the arts to the sciences and various disciplines in between. I would always start the interview by asking them to tell me about an experience in learning and teaching that they would consider was a creative experience for them. In a number of cases that question prompted a sort of rabbit-in-the-headlight stare, as if to say “What the hell has creativity got to do with teaching?”. But inevitably they would eventually identify and begin to talk about a particular experience.

At some point I always asked them what prompted them to go down that particular road? Almost everyone I interviewed either said, or said something along the lines of ‘I stumbled across something’.

Probing deeper into this revealed that the mere act of ‘stumbling across something’ is not sufficient in itself. After all, we stumble across potentially useful stuff all the time. The key factor in enabling them to seize the moment was a sense of confidence: the confidence to believe it might be the right thing to do, the confidence to believe it might just work, the confidence to believe that it was worth whatever risk was attached to it, the confidence to believe it was worth giving it go.

As the debates swirl around skills v. passing exams, education for life v. training for work, the intrinsic value of education v. its extrinsic worth, very few seem to be talking about attributes like confidence, and asking how we might educate and work in partnership with our young (and often not-so-young) students to enable them to face – with a steadfast eye, a steady hand, and a keen, informed, open mind – the uncertainties that a complex, rapidly-changing world will inevitably throw at them.

The poet Antonio Machado famously wrote:

Wanderer, there is no path.
The path forms itself as you walk it.

Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

At least one of our tasks as educators is to ensure that we have done our best to enable our students – as each forms amd forges their individual path – to stumble confidently towards not only whatever lies around the next bend but beyond the horizon.


Author: Paul Kleiman

Academic, researcher, writer, musician, gardner, narrowboat owner, dog owner, cat servant

4 thoughts on “Why I’m stumbling with confidence”

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