Scared to try? It’s difficult to pin down the exact origin of the ‘do not fail’ culture in schools. Did schools simply replicate the industrial model where the wrong result would mean lost profits? Was it the growth in competitive school structures and league tables that encouraged teachers to only point students directly to the ‘right’ answer? It doesn’t really matter, we just need to remove the fear culture asap!
THE EFFECTS OF FAIL FEAR
Fear of getting it ‘wrong’ makes students:
- Not engage
- rely too much on teacher input
- not experiment or challenge ideas
- not value their own thoughts (correct thoughts will be provided)
Fear of things going wrong makes teachers:
- Never challenge their own practice with something new.
- Not enhance practice with digital tools.
- Not encourage peer observation.
- focus students only on the ‘right’ answers and not on the purpose behind learning.
- restrict students to only the activities and technologies that their teacher is confident in.
- not learn from the kids !
Moving beyond the fear is a cultural shift that needs to be explicitly explained to both students and teachers. I am fortunate that I work in a school that encourages individuals to experiment and fail. Even within this environment, many of my colleagues still tread carefully and worry about any new initiatives having adverse effects. This fear of things going wrong is dangerous because it always reduces what a teacher will accept as learning activity in their classroom and thus restricts students from personalising their approach, feeling they own their own learning and thus kills intrinsic engagement.
Here’s a slide I start many of my units with:
“Let go of the fact you don’t know what you’re doing, ‘cos you’ll have to hack it all along the way” - Alexis Ohanian
Here’s the Reddit creator explaining that he’s always worked on-the-fly and and made it up as he goes along. This should be seen as a positive way to work and will be needed more as the speed of development around the world increases.
Learning and Adapting
Why failing must become the norm.
The world is changing fast. Technology is changing quickly too and the speed of change will increase (See Shanghai below!). Over the next 50 years, occupations will come and go and learning and adapting will become the key skills for everyone trying to survive and develop a career that will last.
Please make failing a good thing in your classroom and allow your students to fully engage with your programme without fear holding them back. For example, when it comes to using iPads, set clear criteria and demands but benefit from the true potential of the devices by allowing students to present their learning in the format that suits them best. Ensure they are presenting their work to an audience other than just the teacher and have an explicit dialogue about the probable failures in this freedom and that the class will all learn from each other’s failures.