You Failed, and It was Awesome!

From Meet the Robinson’s:

“You failed, and it was awesome!”



“When you fail you are learning, with success, not so much.”


Courtesy of ELA instructional coach Ellen Weibel, I watched Candace Smith show this clip from Meet the Robinson’s  (which is also linked on her class website) while discussing the Engineering process in a class where science and English combine.

She also explained the engineering design process pictured here:

Engineering Cycle

In the co-taught class, students are encouraged to take risks using the challenge-based learning approach outlined here.  To support the process, students each have a Chromebook purchased by his or her parents for a $125.00 payment each year over the two years of the program.

One main premise of the course is that students are not “punished” for trying and failing.  The class is based on large-scale, real-world problems and the processes and strategies students use to solve them is more important than the final “product” being successful.  In other words, the process is being assessed, not the product being produced.

The acceptance of failure does not mean lack of rigor; it may even be a requirement of rigor.  The “design process” is a collaborative, creative, problem-solving venture which requires critical thinking and interpersonal skills necessary for life, and it includes a necessary place for revised thinking and second tries.

Accepting, even encouraging, failure creates something else in students too: grit.  Grit is the number one indicator of success in students’ futures (see articles and resources listed below).

So, how can we help our students to fail, and then try again?

Additional resources on the importance of grit:

Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

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