Persevering Through Hardship

Students develop resiliency by safely experiencing failure on their pathways to success.

Photo of Kim Miner
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One way to develop character, while preparing for the realities of life, is to provide opportunities for students to fail.  Challenging, motivating tasks that require students to collaborate and generate new solutions, after an unsuccessful first attempt, requires faith in students' ability to learn, encouragement, a time commitment and a safe learning environment.  

Optional: How comfortable do you feel incorporating character education in your curriculum? (1-10, where 10 = very comfortable!)

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Photo of Jennifer Gaspar- Santos

I like this idea, especially as someone who will be teaching a CS course next year in app development, where failure is really key in developing programming skills. I have ideas on measuring this characteristic of "agility" and "ability to plow through failure" such as journal writing, open discussion sessions on strategies to get through failure, celebrating failure through failure bows during class or a transparent wall of failure at the front of class where students openly pin up ways they failed while learning code.

I'm interested in hearing how you would encourage teachers to design opportunities for students to fail  (what would that look like?) and how teachers would measure the success of those experiences? 

Photo of Kim Miner

In the first few days of school I would encourage teachers to design tasks, which are not straightforward, with one clear answer (unlike a math facts problem). Insisting that students move beyond the first idea to generate several possible solutions, even far-fetched ideas, will help instill ‘thinking outside the box’. Teachers would have to accept several possible correct answers, and allow the problem solving process to be more important than the solution. One example is a building task where students take provided materials to create a bridge that will hold a predetermined weight. This requires planning, trial and error, blending ideas, and sticking with difficulty. Students / groups will benefit from the opportunity to share their ideas with others during idea generation and while prototyping.

Providing students time to document throughout the process will allow students to ideate and reflect, while creating a written document. Students may benefit from participating in a whole class-building project first, to learn the journaling process and expectations. Teachers can also measure success by observing whether students carried on, in the face of adversity, or not. Did they make adjustments based on feedback and experimentation? Learning to persevere after failing is an important life skill to learn in that outside of the controlled classroom environment failure will happen.