Failure plays a crucial role in learning. When we fail at something, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong and figure out how to do it differently or better next time. This process of learning from failure is an essential part of the learning process.
In the context of games, failure can be a particularly useful tool for learning. Games are often designed to be challenging, and players are expected to encounter obstacles and failures as they progress through the game. This can be seen as a form of “safe failure,” as players can learn from their mistakes without real-world consequences.
For example, when playing a video game, if a player fails to complete a level, they can try again and learn from their mistakes. They might try a different strategy, pay more attention to their surroundings, or practice their skills to improve their performance. This iterative process of failing and learning can be an engaging and enjoyable way to learn.
Failure is an inevitable part of learning and growth, and it can be a valuable opportunity to reflect, adapt, and improve. By embracing failure and using it as a learning opportunity, we can make progress and achieve our goals more effectively.
How to Let your Students Fail (the right way)
There are several strategies that teachers can use to promote learning from mistakes and encourage students to fail and try again:
- Create a safe and supportive learning environment: It is important for teachers to create a classroom culture that is supportive and non-judgmental, where students feel comfortable making mistakes and taking risks.
- Encourage a growth mindset: Help students understand that their intelligence and abilities are not fixed, but can be developed through effort and practice. This can help them see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than as a personal failing.
- Use mistakes as a teaching opportunity: When students make mistakes, use them as a chance to discuss what went wrong and how they can improve. Encourage students to reflect on their mistakes and consider what they can do differently next time.
- Encourage students to take risks and try new things: Encourage students to step outside of their comfort zones and try new things, even if they are unsure of their abilities. This can help them become more comfortable with the idea of failing and trying again.
- Provide feedback and support: Offer constructive feedback and support to students when they make mistakes. Help them see that mistakes are a normal part of the learning process and that it is okay to fail as long as they are willing to learn from it.
By using these strategies, teachers can help create a classroom culture where students feel comfortable making mistakes and taking risks, and where failure is seen as a natural part of the learning process.
Allowing Failure Reduces Cheating
Fear of failure in school can contribute to cheating, as some students may feel pressure to succeed and may feel that cheating is a way to avoid the consequences of failing. This fear of failure can be particularly acute for students who feel that their grades and academic success are a measure of their worth or value.
To allow students to fail safely, teachers can create a supportive and non-judgmental classroom culture that encourages risk-taking and a growth mindset. Teachers can also provide opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes and give feedback and support when students make errors.
Frequent feedback and formative assessments can help reduce the temptation for students to cheat by providing students with ongoing support and guidance as they learn and progress. This can help students feel more confident and motivated in their learning, and can help them see the value in putting in effort and working hard.
Formative assessments, in particular, can be a useful tool for helping students understand their strengths and weaknesses and identify areas where they need to improve. By providing regular feedback and formative assessments, teachers can help students stay on track and make progress, which can help reduce the temptation to cheat.
Additionally, by providing frequent feedback and formative assessments, teachers can help students feel more connected to their learning and more invested in their own progress. This can help students feel more motivated and engaged, which can help reduce the temptation to cheat as they see the value in putting in effort and working hard.
Overall, by providing frequent feedback and formative assessments, teachers can help create a classroom culture that values effort and learning over grades and test scores, which can help reduce the temptation for students to cheat
Fast Feedback Promotes Softer Fails
The speed at which a student receives feedback can have an impact on their ability to learn the material more completely. In general, faster feedback can be more effective for learning because it allows students to receive information about their performance and progress in a timely manner, which can help them make adjustments and improvements more quickly.
For example, if a student is working on a problem and receives feedback within a few minutes, they can use that feedback to adjust their approach and try again. This can be more effective for learning than if the student receives feedback after a longer delay, as the information may be less relevant or useful by that time.
Faster feedback can also be more motivating for students, as it can help them feel more connected to their learning and more invested in their own progress. This can help increase their engagement and motivation to learn, which can lead to better learning outcomes.
The relationship between the speed of feedback and the likelihood of more complete learning is complex and may depend on the specific learning goals and context. However, in general, faster feedback can be more effective for learning and can help students make progress and improve more quickly. Luckily, Canvas (by Instructure) and most other learning management systems allow you to add nearly instant feedback to your courses. At Lona Labs, we ensure that all questions that can be auto-graded receive feedback to close the gap between an error and a learning opportunity. We even have some tricks to get your student’s feedback on assignments that still require a teacher’s eye. 😉
Make Failure Fun
Before we conclude, there are several strategies that can be used to make failure more fun and enjoyable, like a game:
- Gamify the learning experience: One way to make failure more fun is to incorporate game-like elements into the learning experience. This could include using points, quests, badges (such as Canvas Credentials), or other rewards to encourage students to engage with the material and learn from their mistakes. Just be sure to design it so that there is no incentive for cheating, and every incentive for reaching mastery.
- Make failure a part of the game: You can design games that incorporate failure as a natural part of the gameplay. For example, you can create a game where players are expected to fail a certain number of times before they can progress to the next level. This can help students see failure as a natural and expected part of the learning process.
- Use failure as a source of humor: You can use humor to help students see failure in a more positive light. For example, you can encourage students to laugh at their mistakes and share funny stories about things that went wrong. This can help students see failure as a normal and manageable part of life, rather than as a source of stress or anxiety.
- Make failure a collaborative experience: Rather than viewing failure as a personal failing, try making it a collaborative experience. Encourage students to work together to identify what went wrong and how to improve, and to support and encourage each other as they try again.
- Use failure as a way to foster creativity and innovation: Encourage students to think creatively and take risks, even if they are unsure of the outcome. This can help them develop a growth mindset and see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than as a personal failing.
Overall, by reframing failure as a challenge to be overcome, a collaborative experience, or an opportunity for creativity and innovation, it can be more enjoyable and engaging for students.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about increasing your student’s joy of learning through failure, you should consider Scott Provence’s book “Fail to Learn”. It’s a quick read and a fantastic manifesto for improving your teaching. We didn’t even put in an affiliate link, so you’ll know we’re in earnest 😉