Students should fail.

Students should fail, they should be allowed to make mistakes, comfortable to even.

Why? Because learning by self exploration and trial and error not only builds resilience but enquiry based learning also encourages independent problem solving skills.

I have been thinking about this post for a while, not only because it is a common theme in my classes (mainly due to my KLA area) but also because for some students, the fear of failure is frightening. During the last parent teacher night, I had an extended conversation with a student and parent, our discussion considered “what is the worst thing that could happen if you make a mistake?”

Well? What is is it? . . . . we decided the WORST case scenario is re-doing something, but then pondered, “if it’s a do-over, would the second time be BETTER?” . . . what if in the act of failing and making mistakes they are becoming more discerning and critical of their work, able to distinguish right and wrong on their own!?

First of all, I believe it is essential to have ground work in place so that students feel comfortable enough to make those initial mistakes and secondly but MOST important is the TIME and FRAMEWORK for them to evaluate, share and IMPROVE based on those mistakes. And THEN, if a mistake is made, it is a GOOD ONE!

My year 12 students are at such a crucial time in their Major Design Projects, all through the process it has been a goal of mine to program/cater for time for SELF experimentation. Common questions such as “which plastic is suitable? what glue do I use” ALL get the same answer. . . . EXPERIMENT? TRY? RESEARCH? and decide YOURSELF!! I revel in thinking about HOW MUCH MORE they are learning by just working it out themselves! . . . . but why do I feel more comfortable in doing this with older students??

My year 7 and 8 technology classes run based on projects, in order to complete the projects students follow steps and a series of demonstrations. Reflecting and comparing this to how I run my senior classes, I couldn’t think as to WHY I don’t do the same thing??!! Why do I TELL students all the answers? – – sadly, its due to lack of time, urgh.

So, on friday and today, I gave it a go with my juniors. I let go, and let them make mistakes. . .

And, of course like in my senior classes, they felt comfortable enough to. And even though I normally get excited about the learning that takes place, today what excited me the most is that they were comfortable enough in my classroom to make those mistakes, they shared them with friends (so they didn’t make the same mistake) AND they shared them with me.

Did this impact greatly on time as I originally thought? In “lesson time” it put me behind 1 lesson. BIG WHOOP!! ??

What WAS beneficial is seeing the independent learning, exploration and problem solving in my juniors that I LOVE seeing in my senior classes. We spent time reflecting on each others mistakes in a discussion (and later a blog post), but mainly focused on WHAT WAS LEARNT FROM THEM.

EPIC lessons!! = HAPPY TEACHER!

. . . . I have loved reading about their “mistakes” in their reflective blog posts – I highly recommend this for a reflective blog exercise in your class!

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