Teaching Kids About Failure

This week’s discussion topic from Education Nation is inspired by Jon Dudas’ article Failure is Required for Innovative Learning, which highlights challenging teaching methods that accept failure as a pathway to learning in the science and technology classroom. The method, which has been implemented in Merrimack Middle School in New Hampshire as part of their STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), rigorously guides students through the processes of problem solving, so that they accept error and ‘failure’ as the pathway to solutions and success and learning through real-life experiences.


“…Let’s ask students to embrace failure as a fundamental part of learning”

Schools such as this one in New Hampshire highlight how far education has developed in the last century in the West, and moved away from rote learning where children are spoon fed information that they must memorize for exams. Speaking as someone who has worked education, I believe that trial and error is a golden rule for making learning stick by pushing boundaries of knowledge. When failure happens, the teacher is on hand to help students understand why their method didn’t work. Experiential learning is relevant across the curriculum, from learning a second language to physical education.

Too many times I have witnessed young people holding back from experimenting with ideas and testing their understanding because they are frightened of failure. This is a very real learning block for children, and is born out of a culture that pushes for success and does not accept failure as a route to achievement.

“Let’s ask kids to try and fail without fear”

Experiential learning happens from birth: learning to walk, learning to eat, learning to get dressed. As parents we are our children’s’ first teachers; on hand to guide our kids through the world so that they become independent, happy people. At what point is this fear of failure learned so that they need to be re-taught at school? Children spend their first years figuring out the world for themselves through trial and error, and it’s an indescribable joy to watch your child get it right. Let’s not hold back from failure and accept it as a natural part of life.

Related Articles

STEM makes sense (learning.com)

FIRST A non-profit organization that supports science and technology learning fin young people

Helping Kids Overcome Fear of Failure  (more4kids.com)

Is There a Fear of Failure in Education? (The Guardian)



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