Teaching students to embrace, learn and bounce back from failure.

Struggle and failure are important parts of the learning process. Yet, interlocking systems of power and privilege dramatically shape who can afford to take risks, who gets to fail, and who has the resources and support to try again. FLIP works to normalize the experience of failure, promote equitable failure pedagogy, and stimulate positive institutional cultures for students, staff, instructors, and administrators alike.

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Students and educators recognize that failure has an impact on education

Our research shows students and educators have a complex relationship with failure.

The education system has a clear message to students; you must get questions right or you are wrong. 

– Undergraduate student

I’ve always been taught that failure is bad, and nobody wants to help someone who’s failed. Logically, I know that’s wrong, but mentally, I can’t move past it.

– Undergraduate student

Courses cost money, and to embrace and learn from failure is essentially like gambling. If you win, great you got the credit, if you lose, you forfeit your money and have to pay for it again. How would someone want to learn from failing by losing money?

– Undergraduate student

When you experience failure, it becomes a label of who you are as a person which greatly affects your professional, academic and personal life. The inability to ever shed that label and all of these serious negative effects of failure makes it hard to embrace it or learn from it.

– Undergraduate student

I would rather make the decisive choice to give up or let go of something when I know it won’t give me the result I want rather than fail.

– Undergraduate student

To me, it feels like some of my instructors don’t even see me as a person, but just a robot that is supposed to work day and night to do well in their courses. I don’t know what to ask of them, they’re just doing their jobs like I’m supposed to do mine.

– Undergraduate student

My impression is that the department thinks that some students in every class will always fail and that’s on them…I don’t think they think of it as a learning process.

– Faculty member

I don’t want to be perceived as punitive in ways that can make the incorporation of failure into classes feel risker to the wellbeing of my students.

– Faculty member

I’ve been explicitly told that my grades can’t be too high.

– Faculty member

I think students are afraid to take chances or to explore too much because they’re deeply, deeply afraid of failing.

– Faculty member

Resource Hub

We’ve developed a number of open educational resources (OERs) to help teach students about failure.

For Students

Pressure to succeed, constraints on time, and social inequalities can foster more fear of failure than sense of opportunity. With the resources gathered here, our goal is to equip all students with the tools to embrace failure as a learning process and feel supported while doing so.

For Instructors

Failure can be a central concern for instructors in terms of pedagogy, research, and career trajectory. The resources provided here aim to assist instructors in developing equity-focused pedagogy and navigate the stakes and stresses of failure in their careers and institutions.

For Administrators

Discourses of failure and resiliency have become increasingly prevalent in higher education institutions. These resources seek to guide program development, institutional supports, and educator training toward equitable policies for learning, teaching, and research.

The Project

The Failure: Learning in Progress (FLIP) project examines pedagogical struggle and failure utilizing an equity-focused approach. The team is particularly interested in exploring how the opportunities and consequences of failure fall unevenly in the lives of first-generation, international, Indigenous, and racialized students. Since its inception in 2018 this project has been conducting original studies, publishing research articles, and developing open education resources for instructors and students alike. 

We are an interdisciplinary team of faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate research assistants, and undergraduate students based at the University of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan University. Our diverse backgrounds, research, and teaching interests span the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to make for a cross-disciplinary and multi-focal analysis of failure and learning in higher education. 

Learn about us →

Our Approach

We consider a number of factors when approaching failure resiliency.

Embracing and learning from failure in higher education chart