Adding Failure to the Educational Mix

I don’t know exactly when failure became acceptable, but when the fashion world embraces failure, you know that failure has definitely become sexy.

Perhaps it was comfortable for education to embrace concepts of failure from the business world. After all, failure is part of the learning process, that endless spiral of advancing and regressing back to the initial novelty of information that the brain must re-process and make sense of. There are other kinds of failure as well – lessons where the wifi fails in the midst of creating digital stories, days when the IWB will stubbornly not be re-aligned, the sound cable has gone missing when the teacher has a great video to show the class, team members are absent on the day of a presentation; the list is endless and well known to those who spend a lifetime in classrooms.

Then there are other types of classroom failures – a lack of references which students miss and then fail to grasp the inherent meaning of text, a lack of cultural appropriateness, a lack of time for discussing what students really want to know about because there are tests to prepare for. Again, realities that many educators will be familiar with.

However, in between failures and successes, there are fine, subtle lines. Failure may be accepted,  as long as it is  followed by success.  Preferably by tremendous success, the kind  which often characterises the contemporary tales of the celebrity world. This is part of the acceptance – the story of failing and rising again. Icarus who rises as Phoenix.

In the educational process, though, this does not always happen at such a dramatic scale. Learners’ successes are often quiet, indeterminable. Success in learning takes time. And needless to say (yet I repeat), real learning is not about passing exams.

There is failure too when it comes to peer observations, as Didau points out:

One of the most pernicious and abiding myths at work is the belief that students should make progress every lesson.

This is meaningless. Learning is complicated and takes place over time. Everyone has experienced the fact that sometimes a lesson seems to have gone really well but yet students remember nothing the next lesson.

This is because we’re obsessed with measuring students’ performance rather than their learning.

Is Education a mere loop of failures?

No. Not in the least.

But it is a world where failure is an inherent part of the process. It is a world where constant motivation is essential in the many layers and forms teachers are able to provide students.

If one is to speak of authenticity in learning, then aspects of failure need to be added to the mix of items which constitute authenticity in learning and classrooms.

So, what is left within this mix?

The acceptance that learning is risky; what is new (e.g. learning to use a new digital tool) may take failure in order to  succeed; the need to reassure learners that yes, failure may be accepted for as long as success is aimed for and achieved in the end.

After all, aren’t we all aiming to pass exams?

Or is learning, real learning, a more authentic educational process?

How do you deal with failure in educational processes?

References:

Mundy, L.,  2013 – Losing is the New Winning

Sowray, B., 2013 – Tom Ford’s Secret to Success? Failure

Stenger, M. 2013, – We Can Only Guarantee Success if We Have Low Expectations. Anything Else Demands Risking Failure: Interview with Dabid Didau

Note

The image with Seth Godin’s quote is by Martin Marcisovsky

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4 thoughts on “Adding Failure to the Educational Mix

  1. Pingback: There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure. | philosiblog

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