Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Failing Forward

Students must be allowed to experience failure

Failure is not an option.  

Educators often send mixed messages to students.  One of the most prevalent right now is about failure.  We say school must be a safe place to experience failure then turn around and require students to pass a standardized test in order to be promoted to the next grade level.

This time of year, failure is a top concern.

  • What students have failed THE TEST?
  • What students have failed to earn credit for their courses?
  • Have I failed my students as their teacher? 
Standardized testing is a part of our educational landscape.  Laws of the land dictate that they must pass.  And yet, many teachers want to provide opportunity for failure.  We want our students to make mistakes and learn to survive them.  

How do we mediate these two competing messages for our students?

Failing Forward - this is failure that moves you towards a goal instead of away from it.  We must teach students how to fail forward.  How can this failed attempt inform your next attempt?  

Be Honest - some failures have consequences.  Openly discuss those before, during and after the event.  Don't be Suzy Sunshine, 'everything's going to be alright!'.  Be positive but be honest. 

Fail to plan, plan to fail - work with students to develop a success plan before they begin.  If failure occurs, review what went wrong and develop a new plan.  

Share your failures - students think all their teachers were geeks in school.  If you struggled with an academic subject tell them about it.  But also tell them how you adapted or overcame.  Within reason, share what you struggle with now.  I struggle receiving feedback on my fiction writing.  I'm too invested in my characters and I don't receive feedback well.  I've shared that with my students.  They know I'm working on distancing myself so that I can receive feedback and improve my writing.  

Offer safe opportunities for failure and creative exploration - Genius Hour is a great time for this.  During Genius Hour (sometimes called 20% time) students get to explore something they are passionate about and create something related to their passion.  This is a great time for students to try new things.  And you get to coach them through the process.  Learn more about Genius Hour here.

Allow them to learn from failure - I hate NO REDO policies.  I don't need a kid to get a 65 on a multiplication quiz.  I need them to learn to multiply.  Redos can be overwhelming from a grading and recording keeping perspective.  You don't have to offer redos on everything but key or foundational concepts it is a must.  You can't build a house on a missing foundation. 

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