Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fear of Failure

A former student recommended that I read about a topic she had studied in one of her teacher preparation classes.  The topic: Quality of Failure.  I was immediately intrigued and google searched it only to find a couple of fascinating articles Teaching to Fail and The Freedom to Fail. I realize that students have great respect for when I wrestle with a question that they pose or if I find that the math is "not working out in class" and have to pause the class to figure it out.  Some of them even enjoy wrestling with me to arrive at a solution or conclusion about "the magic" that makes the math work.  I love these moments.

The challenge is getting more students on board.  They have grown up in a microwave world and want the instant solutions without a lot of effort or thought, so some of them frequently just sit and wait until "the smarter people" come up with the solution or the rule for the pattern.  I often have to "Ssshhhh" students and remind them not to "spoiler alert" when they want to blurt out the pattern they have spotted.  I remind students to wait for others to process and develop their own hypothesis before sharing "the trick".  What I hope to accomplish next year (and perhaps a little with the few remaining days this year) is to encourage students that failure is how we learn.  I am always telling my students that they don't learn from the problems that they get right, only the wrong ones IF they work them again to get to the correct solution.  I wish I had a dime for the number of times I have seen a student look at only the score on their test and toss it back into the graded pile.  Despite the fact that I encourage them to come in for extra help so they can rework the problems, they don't.  It is disappointing.  I suspect my quality of failure in this respect is still low because I haven't figured out an effective way to get them to rework missed problems or focus on those failures so that they can learn from them.

I hope to incorporate some new strategies next year that will require students to stop and reflect on the problems that they get wrong, and write me an explanation as to why they missed it and then write a new question similar to the missed problem with a solution as well.

I want them to celebrate their failures because it is through those that growth and learning both happen!  Looking forward to failure!!                  

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