Monday, December 04, 2006

Learning Through Failure - Getting Unstuck


"Spectacular failure is better than moderate success." - Faste, Stanford Dept Mechanical Engineering

How many of us can say this after a spectacular failure? For those whose jobs day-to-day innovation, this often is one of their secrets of success. One of the books I'm reading now is To Engineer is Human.

It doesn't take long to get Petroski's message - failure is involved in any successful design. The problem is, we often don't hear about failures - and the problem is more severe in schools. As Petroski recounts the history of different styles of architecture, like the Bent Pyramid (below), 1284 medieval cathedral collapse (flying buttresses aren't just used to look pretty), or Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

One of the most pernicious things about hiding failure for students is that it discourages healthy risk-taking and can have profound intellectual and creative stunting consequences in adulthood.

Resilience and optimism may not come easy for some kids, so it's important to know how to encourage in a way that is credible but also constructive. Having a more realistic concept of failure - is a good place to start, but modeling failure (don't be afraid to let them see you try difficult things and fail), scaffolding the process (learning from mistakes), and reminding them of the limited and temporary natures of setbacks are also important.

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Sustaining Motivation and Learning Through Failure
ENL: Walt Disney & Build This!
EQ TODAY: Teaching Optimism
Organizations - Learning from Failure
Fear of Failure Deters Women from Entering Business
The Hard Work of Failure Analysis
Tacoma Narrows Bridge Picture, Bent Pyramid
Tacoma Narrows Bridge Oscillation Video

1 comment:

  1. I liked your comments on the value of failure. As luck would have it, I recently posted to my own blog in a similar vein. The post is titled "On the Intellectual Imperative to Screw Up." If interested, you can read about it here:

    http://www.kimmccall.org/sheldon/blogs/cogito/?p=40

    PS-I'm no longer using Blogger for my blog; it's located at http://www.guerrillascholar.com/cogito

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