“In this school the teachers won’t let you fail. They never give up on you.” – Anonymous Student
There has been a lot of chatter lately about how we should embrace failure. I have previously talked about Why Do Some People Learn Faster? Wired Magazine writer, Jonah Lehrer explained “people learn how to get it right by getting it wrong again and again.” He’s right. People who learn from mistakes learn faster and the research supports that.
However, this does not in any way mean that we should encourage and embrace failure. Why? In education, there is no failure. There is only feedback.
As Ken Blanchard once wrote, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” If we have employed a standards-based instructional approach founded, not upon sorting students for success, but on helping each student achieve mastery, the only way for a student to fail is to quit or give up. It is not a question of will they learn, but a question of when will they learn. That’s my friends is a growth mindset.
The Teaching Channel has a great video that illustrates my point. Math teacher, Leah Alcala, engages students by using a “bell ringer” math problem at the beginning of every class. The students complete the problem on an index card and turn in the card. It is here that Alcala gets really creative. Instead of storing the cards so that she can grade them, she scans through each card and picks here ‘favorite, no”—her favorite wrong answer. Using a document camera, Alcala then displays her favorite wrong answer and then conducts a “think-pair-share” activity. For the next few minutes, the students analyze the thinking that led to the wrong answer.
Materials and Resources: Index Cards, Document Camera, LCD Projector
This is a great “bell ringer,” or “do now” activity.
This 5:00 minute video also demonstrates the following:
- Creating a low-threat classroom environment
- Low-cost strategies
- Formative Assessment
- Check for Understanding
- Whole-Class Instruction
- Questioning Strategies
- Guided Practice
- Teach and Re-teach
- Higher-Order Thinking (Analyze, Evaluate, Metacognition)
In Leah Alcala’s classroom, there is no failure, only feedback!