Daring Greatly through Peer Communion

Picture of Steven DunnWritten By Steven Dunn, M.A., Office of Research Integrity and Compliance; and Psychology – 

With a background in psychology, I was aware of Dr. Brené Brown’s work and had a strong curiosity towards her book, Daring Greatly. Reading the text alone offers any reader a communal exchange between zirself and the voice of the author in the narrative. By participating in CETTL’s faculty book club, I was offered the opportunity to read and discuss this book with approximately eight regularly attending faculty and staff members. Outside of merely reading the book and exchanging ideas with peers, I was charged with leading the group.

Daring Greatly Book Cover

Adding this additional responsibility to my participation was a compelling way to absorb material with higher retention. Isn’t this what we tell students, “Study as if you will be teaching others the material?” This is the same concept all educators should use in approaching the effort of teaching; however, teaching peers felt different. These are individuals with the same as or better skills at deciphering material and finding application of said material. I would say that this move transcends teaching or leading in the traditional sense, becoming more of a communion of material with others. The group I was to lead could not have been a better group with whom to feel this communion of information. Most of the group participated with a willingness to exemplify Dr. Brown’s words through their experiences, which added multiple layers of understanding of the material revealing several instances of growth for myself and most of the group.

…shame anchors students and faculty from moving along in the stream of living, learning, and growing

The book covers several components of what the author identifies as daring greatly but the central point that resonated in the group was the notion of shame and how shame anchors students and faculty from moving along in the stream of living, learning, and growing. It was fascinating to see faculty come to terms with elements of shame that they deal with, which instantly connected them with the students in their course. This felt connection led to a few group members developing insights on possibly understanding struggling or at-risk students better, as well as generating novel ways by which these students could be better encouraged to engage in class. This encouragement was applied both through class assignments as well as updates to the educator’s classroom environment. Learning with my peers seemed first nature as we discussed the several how’s and why’s about feeling brave and empowered. Riding such positive feelings is exactly why it is important to have this communion with peers, because life isn’t a field of daisies (this analogy is supposed to represent that life isn’t easy – if you are reading this and suffer from extreme allergies, my apologies).

The most important component of this communion was that working with peers presented a grounding to realism. I would say that this is most important because we as educators walk into very different atmospheres of discipline, making certain changes easy or not possible. It was in the struggle of communal application that real and honest considerations of application could be seen and understood in a concrete way. Being peers, the effort of communion in dipping into the material for usability generated a more realistic and considerate use of the material and growth, with advancement as an educator.

Brown, C. B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, N.Y.: Gotham.


  1. It was a great group and this is a great review. I’m considering reading her other books now.

  2. Steven,
    Very nice illustration how faculty can form a caring community, if only for a short time.

  3. Nice post, Steven! Will put that one on the summer reading list.

  4. Hello Steven! This was an excellent read! I have not yet had the chance to read this book, but I am familiar with Dr. Brown’s work through her TedTalks and other books. Her work has made it into my classroom in General Psychology and Developmental Psychology. Many students do not see the difference between shame and guilt, and I see this as an opportunity to teach them about the differences in emotions and the impact they have on us. What is the most interesting is when we start to discuss these concepts, you can see students’ eyes start to realize the feelings they have and why they feel that way. We discuss the issues of shame in the classroom for both the students and for me as a professor. It is an interesting conversation and transformative for them and me. I am glad to see that other professors are having the same experience across campus!

  5. I completely agree with your statement, “The most important component of this communion was that working with peers presented a grounding to realism”. What better way to explore the topics than by discussing our personal experiences both in and out of the classroom? I really enjoyed the book as well.

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