Psychological Safety #22: Education and Teaching

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety #22: Education and Teaching

dont be afraid of asking questions

Thanks for subscribing to the psychological safety newsletter! This week we have a bumper section on education and teaching, alongside near-misses, software development, complex systems and privilege walks.
In the Workplace:

This is excellent! Heuristics for Effective Software Development: A continuously evolving list. And the most important factor, at number 1? Without psychological safety, respect, and trust, none of the following is possible. I love every point though, and I feel like this should be read by every manager, everywhere, not just those involved in software development; for example, see point 20: Give people the environment and support they need, then get out of the way.

This is a great article from Paul Verrico of Eversheds Sutherland on the value of near-misses. Empowering the workforce to focus on the conditions which give rise to the near miss rather than the actions or omissions of the worker assists in learning and discussion and brings everyone on the journey. A positive safety culture shows compassion to spark positive change and doesn’t blame or reprimand others. It also reminds me of the idea of John Allspaw’s “Goldilocks incidents” being the most powerful to learn from. 

Hybrid and virtual working practices cropped up again this week: as some venture back into offices and shared environments, we need to remember the practices that we’ve learned through the pandemic and how they help us work in a distributed manner.

This podcast episode of Worklife with Adam Grant, “Is it Safe to Speak Up at Work?” features Ed Pierson, Amy Edmondson, Captain Bill Wilson and Admiral McRaven and particularly highlights the need for psychological safety in order to hear diverse perspectives, which ultimately drives innovation. 

After the recent discussion around icebreakers, this popped up on Twitter and is so true! 

Check out the Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarks: Standards for Organizations Around the World. The GDEIB is a phenomenal guide for dealing with inequity and injustice, and improving inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

A personal observation: I’ve noticed something interesting and powerful when running psychological safety workshops. Because we’re talking about psychological safety, it naturally encourages a safe space for people to speak up. As a result it means that every single workshop I do is an experiment, and every single one improves on the last. If only all our environments were as psychologically safe as this all the time!

Schools and Education:

If you know the rules of chess, you might like this:

Quite a few of our newsletter readers are teachers, and/or work in education, and I’d love to hear thoughts on this from anyone in the sector. I recently came across the “Teach Like a Champion” (TLAC) approach, which is apparently very popular in some schools in the US and UK. One of the fundamental premises of TLAC is of 100% compliance of students, and that teachers must have full control over the classroom. The Five Principles of TLAC classroom culture are:

  • Discipline,
  • Management,
  • Control,
  • Influence
  • Engagement

Certainly, a chaotic classroom is poorly suited to learning, and the best classroom environment is calm, predictable and safe, though the apparent prioritisation of discipline and compliance niggles at me. Compliance should be a baseline, an enabler, not a goal.

This seems to be a good critique of Teach Like A Champion, and caused me pause: how can we expect children to grow into fully rounded people who feel empowered to be their true selves at work, contribute their own unique ideas, admit mistakes, and challenge the status quo, if their formative years have been spent in a culture primarily of “Discipline, Management and Control“? If you’re in education and have thoughts on this, please email me at or join us in the slack community to discuss.

This makes for interesting and powerful reading: a study by the Black Research Education Collective on understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism have impacted Black education from the perspectives of Black parents, teachers, students, education and community leaders. It highlights that psychological safety is particularly lacking for black students in the US, and presents a significant challenge in the return to school post-pandemic.

Theory, Research and Opinion:
 I love this: How Complex Systems Fail: a Short Treatise on the Nature of Failure in Complex Systems. There are so many points in here that resonate deeply with me, such as “All practitioner actions are gambles.” – none of us truly know what the result of our actions will be, and sometimes things don’t go to plan. Judging these “failed” gambles post-hoc as “poor” judgements is not valuable, the the converse is also true – success is rarely assigned to a gamble, but to some “expert” judgement.

This tweet from Jack Butcher is spot on:

A workshop attendee shared this with me this week as an example of poor psychological safety in military units, resulting in dysfunctional communication between units and ultimately a loss of life upon the vessel Sir Galahad in the Falklands conflict. I usually try to avoid case studies from conflict, but I also recognise that military forces of most countries do valuable humanitarian work, and I believe that psychological safety has to be for everyone, not just those whose goals we align with.

Things to do and try:

Have you been part of a “privilege walk” exercise? This practice appears to be an incredibly powerful way of surfacing and exposing the realities of privilege and intersectionality, and drives the conversation about diversity and inclusion. Howeverthis is a great point: “privilege walks rely on the experiences of people with marginalized identities to create a powerful learning experience for people with privilege“, which is clearly unfair and could only worsen inequities and damage psychological safety. What do you think? Head to the community to let us know, or email

This week’s poem: A Great Need, by Hafez


Of a great need

We are all holding hands

And climbing.

Not loving is a letting go.


The terrain around here


Far too





We’re working on a psychological safety meetup. If you would like to be involved, head over to the community: and sign up here:

As always, check out, for more resources and articles. 
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