Go Back

Collaborative Discussion Can Help Students Understand That Failure Is Part Of The Learning Process

Students Need to Understand that Failure is Okay.

J.K. Rowling: “Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success.”

We need to create opportunities for students to fail, so that they learn it’s okay.

Failure seems like the opposite of what the education system is looking for from their students. So much of schooling revolves around student’s ability to succeed. It is seen as a sign of a student who is smart, flourishing and on the right track.

Ironically, this idea of perfection, getting that 100% score, or the A+ is what is hurting a student’s ability to really succeed at problem solving and critical thinking.

An integral part of learning is the ability to learn from failures, experiencing trial and error. If something goes wrong student’s should be asking themselves, how can I improve for next time, what steps can I take to create a solution? At this point is when students actively learn how to critically think and problem solve to resolve issues. Giving them the skills they need to keep learning and progressing through any and all problems and even in the future when they are looking for jobs, going through law school, or out in the workforce.

Learning to be okay with failure is an integral part of the road to learning throughout life.

The Fear of Failure

Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Student’s fear of failure can lead to harmful side effects like:

  • Anxiety, where students feel too nervous to participate or even try at all because they are worried that they will fail.
  • Development of a disposition where students give up before they can even make progress on studying or learning a new concept in math, politics, etc.
  • An expectation that everything worth doing in life should be easy. When really, life as an adult includes many mistakes, miscalculations and failures, and that is completely normal.

Failure is critical. It leads to new experiences where students can actively learn how to produce successful results. When the fear of failure outweighs the benefits of succeeding, students often give up long before they even start trying. It is so important that students learn to accept failure as a normal part of life, while also learning to follow that failure up with a resilience to try again.

Our Approach to Turning Failure into a Positive

Winston Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

At Parlay we’ve found that collaborative discussion can help students to embrace active learning through discussions with their peers. Where they receive feedback, share ideas and learn to welcome the activity of learning. This work helps to develop a growth mindset, where students embrace the challenges set out before them and learn that growth requires effort.

Having supportive, open and honest discussions based on real problems allows students to practice critical thinking and problem solving skills through conscious collaboration. Students learn from each other, receiving feedback on their comments and discussion posts that helps to encourage their participation to do better in the future.

Teachers are also able to give students feedback, where they can encourage students strengths and also suggest ways to improve next time – reminding students that there’s always a next time gives them a feeling of support to make improvements for the future.

All of this creates a feedback loop, when students receive feedback from their teacher and peers it gives them the motivation to know that they can do better, that failure isn’t absolute and that they should keep working to achieve more and try again.

This shapes students who have a growth mindset who are:

  • resourceful
  • persistent
  • innovative
  • resilient
  • and understand the value of growth.

When students are able to practice communicating with their peers, sharing ideas, receiving feedback and giving constructive responses, the fear of failure is removed and it can be seen as a constructive and essential part of learning. Students can achieve great things when they have the mentality that failure is a stepping stone on the way to achieving all that they want to accomplish.

Have any thoughts about the topic? Share them with us, we’d love to hear from you.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to start a discussion.


2016 Digital Education Survey After the bell rings: expanding the classroom – Deloitte

If you’re interested in this topic read 15 Ways Parlay Increases Student Voice to see how discussions create inclusive environments where students can actively learn and develop a growth mindset, helping your class to overcome fear of failure.

Click to keep reading