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The Formative Feedback Project is a collaborative curation of best practices in educational strategies, ideas, resources. Specializing in student ownership, engagement, feedback loops and collaborative, effective feedback.

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Why feedback needs failure

Taylor Meredith

Do you give your students enough opportunities to fail?

What if there was something you can do that will almost certainly improve learning in your classroom? According to John Hattie, that something is feedback.

Opportunities for feedback open up when failure happens. Getting something wrong, making a mistake or error, trying something new and coming up short - these failures, followed by feedback that feeds forward, are our most powerful learning tool.

Here are some common failure fears:

Fear #1: Failure causes anxiety. Anxiety in our students is a very real thing. Avoiding failure to avoid anxiety isn't the solution. Instead, we have an incredible opportunity for social emotional learning and growth. By creating a trusting community that has a culture of practice (where students try things, get feedback and try again) we can try to help students through this learning process.

Action item: Make social emotional learning an active priority. Build strong relationships with your students as individuals and use your own failures at teachable moments.

Fear #2: Failure makes us look bad (to parents, colleagues, administration). Unfortunately, this might be true in some situations (but it shouldn't be). Authentic learning can be messy. Perfect test scores, 100% first try success rates and a classroom full of work that all looks the same should not be our goal. Giving our students purposeful challenges so they can struggle - and grow - should be the goal. It is our responsibility to communicate this philosophy and practice to others.

Action item:  Encourage students to share their failures and learning with others - they will be the best teachers.

Fear #3: Being different. This relates to both teachers and students: I have been lucky enough to work on several different teams throughout my years as a classroom teacher. I have worked on teams where every teacher wanted to give the same exact homework, complete the same projects on the same days and send home the same newsletters. Instead of someone taking a risk - a risk that may result in failure - they opted to all be the same, which seems inherently safer. I learn and grow the most when I work with people who are not afraid of being different. If WE are afraid of taking risks how can we foster the power of failure in our students?  

Action item: Decide to try something new or share an idea and include others in the process. Ask for feedback during various stages, invite them to participate or share in your experience.

This is a shift in mindset for many people, myself included. When we make this shift, we need to live the change. We can’t just share anecdotes and quotes about making mistakes and taking chances - in order to be true innovators we have to create these opportunities for our students and ourselves. It can start with two simple words, “What if…”

Share your wild ideas; I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Find more here:

The Good Life Project Podcast on Creativity and Innovation

Curiosity via Forbes.com

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