Friday, August 7, 2015

#GrowthMindset: Failure TO Learn vs. Failure FOR Learning

Why do we demonize failure?  I just don't understand it.  He failed.  She failed.  We failed. They failed.  No matter who failed, the perpetual perception is that the failure is a loser.  When I think about how we all respond to students and teachers when they fail, I wonder how much irreparable damage our mindsets and reactions to failure cause to them.

Failure TO Learn vs. Failure FOR Learning
There are two ways that we can respond to failure.  Either we can blame the student and assume no responsibility for the child's inability to perform, or we can accept the fact that failure in its purest form is the First Attempt In Learning (FAIL).  Failure is never permanent unless we give up on the kid who is failing.  Below is a table that whipped up to help us all determine whether or not we have a fixed mindset regarding failure (Failure TO Learn) or a growth mindset (Failure FOR Learning).  Take a moment and assess your self.

Failure TO Learn Mindset
Failure FOR Learning Mindset
He didn’t learn the material.
What can I do differently FOR him to help him learn the material next time?
He did not pass.
How much progress did he make from the last test or assignment?
He is always been behind.
What can I do differently to catch him up?
He can’t keep up with the class.
What preteaching and extra time can I give him to help him stay caught up?
He doesn’t have the work ethic for my class.
What can I do differently to teach him how to stay organized and engaged?
He can’t do anything.
What strengths does he possess?
He can’t behave.
When does he consistently act appropriately and how can I leverage that behavior in a constructive manner?
He won’t try for me.
What can I do to reestablish a meaningful relationship for learning with him?
He won’t stay focused.
What is his preferred learning style and am I teaching to that style?

If you look at the left column, the focus is on the kid and what he can't do, but the column on the right is all about what the kid can do and how we can help him do it.  I don't know many people that started riding a bicycle on a half-pipe ramp.  In fact, I don't know anyone who started riding a bike without a little help from someone experienced. To overcome failure, someone helped us get the skill.  Someone helped us become proficient.  That someone was a teacher who lead the way and never gave up on us.

How Can We Respond to Failure FOR Learning
So where did you end up on the table?  If we are honest with ourselves, we have said or thought some of the fixed mindset statements at one point in our careers, and that's ok so long as we are committed to turning our own mental limitations into opportunities for growth.  We are all human, which means we are all fallible.  In other words, failure is in our DNA, but accepting failure as a permanent condition doesn't have to be.

I came across this tweet from the ISTE conference conference a few months back, and it flipped another switch on my journey down the growth mindset pathway.    I think if we could step back and redefine learning for what it really is, we would come to the conclusion that learning is not a proficiency but failure in progress.

I hope you will avoid the failure to learn mindset and embrace failure FOR what it really is, learning in action.

The Freedom to Fail rubric by Andrew Miller

1 comment:

  1. All students need to adopt a growth mindset, which is why I am on a mission to get all teachers to adopt and teach the growth mindset!