Saturday, June 30, 2018

Failure is essential for learning

School gives the wrong idea about the role of failure in learning. It's easy to understand why. An end of unit or course assessment results in a grade. That grade is a measure of 'success' and for most kids result in a number less than 100%. Indeed, sometimes the deck is stacked to skew the scores to produce a curve where students' performance is forced into buckets to validate the teacher's assumption that a distribution of talent exists. (Sal Kahn had a great video on TED: Let's teach for mastery - not test scores.)

My favorite video about the importance failure to learning was recorded by Jeri Ellsworth: Secret to Learning Electronics - Fail and Fail Often. It's not just about learning electronics, it's about learning.

I try to convince kids that failure is just feedback. Education experts from Dewey to Harvard conclude the same thing.

But if you ask a student (or about anyone) if they feel good about failing the answer would certainly be no.

We need to change the messaging about how learning happens - especially in school.