This upside down rubber duck illustrates failure and why it's important to teach students to learn how to fail.

3 steps to rethink failure

Educators can teach students to reconsider failure and turn it into a catalyst for future success

Failure can be a painful experience for anyone, but it is especially tough for teens who are still forming a sense of self. When people experience failure, they often report feelings of embarrassment, shame and depression. Teens can perceive it as a judgment – final, condemning and irreversible.

But, as many educators know, failure is an essential part of the learning process. A 2016 study from Columbia University found that high-school students’ science grades improved after they learned about the personal and intellectual struggles of scientists, while students who only learned about the scientists’ achievements saw their grades decline. The study also indicates a positive link between learning about the struggles of others and student motivation.

Related content: 6 TED Talks about failing forward

So, yes, failure is important, but how do we teach it? Here’s a three-step plan from Rethinking Failure, a no-cost lesson from TGR EDU: Explore. Use these strategies to help students reconsider failing, and turn it into a catalyst for future success.

1. Define failure.

After introducing the topic of failure, I ask students to consider what it means to them personally. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What are its social implications? Afterwards, students share their perspectives with each other, engaging in a Socratic Seminar style conversation.

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