Audience Students

Fish Outta Water Podcast

Welcome to Fish Outta Water, your unofficial university survival guide! In this podcast, hosts and UTM students, Harleen and Loridee talk all about the transition into university, overcoming failure, and what it’s like to be thrown into the swirling rapids of undergrad without a life jacket. Learn how to survive these treacherous waters through a mixture of fun stats and stories, alongside never before heard interviews with your favourite professors.

Learning Journal

These Learning through Failure Journals can be done as in-class reflective activities at multiple points during term.

Productive Failure

This study demonstrates an existence proof for productive failure: engaging students in solving complex, ill-structured problems without the provision of support structures can be a productive exercise in failure. In a computer-supported collaborative learning setting, eleventh-grade science students were randomly assigned to one of two conditions to solve problems in Newtonian kinematics. In one condition, students solved ill-structured problems in groups followed by well-structured problems individually. In the other condition, students solved well-structured problems in small groups followed by well-structured problems individually. Finally, all students solved ill-structured problems individually. Groups who solved ill-structured problems expectedly struggled with defining and analyzing the problems, resulting in poor quality of solutions. However, despite failing in their collaborative efforts, these students outperformed their counterparts in the well-structured condition on individual near- and far-transfer measures subsequently, suggesting a latent productivity in what initially seemed to be failure.

Telling Students it’s O.K. to Fail, but Showing Them it Isn’t: Dissonant Paradigms of Failure in Higher Education

Educators increasingly extol failure as a necessary component of learning and growth. However, students frequently experience failure as a source of fear and anxiety that impedes risk-taking and experimentation. This essay examines the dissonance between these generative and stigmatized paradigms of failure, and it offers ideas for better negotiating this dissonance. After conceptualizing the two paradigms, I examine various factors that reinforce failure’s stigmatization. I emphasize precarious meritocracy, a neoliberal ethos driven by hypercompetitive individualism that makes success a zero-sum game, and that causes especially significant harms on students who are already socially stigmatized. Efforts to ameliorate paradigm dissonance tend to focus on changing student dispositions or lowering the stakes of failure. I instead propose wise interventions that include analyzing the systemic roots of stigmatized failure and making failure a more communal experience. I then briefly address the systemic transformations necessary to cultivate generative failure more broadly.

The Power of Student Agency: Looking Beyond Grit to Close the Opportunity Gap

Rhetoric’s of grit and determination surround discourses of student resiliency. While grit is necessary to overcome inevitable obstacles on the road to success, it is quite dependent on agency. Those without the free will to choose their own fate face limits on their ability to be successful, regardless of their grit. This book encompasses reflections of the unique academic experiences of 50 low-income students of colour and highlights named supports – such as school, family, faith, and mentorship – that foster agency. Kundu emphasizes a gap in opportunity, not achievement, and reflects on how equitable learning and success can be given to all students, especially those who are underprivileged.

Student Wishlist for Institutions

This “Wishlist” has been compiled from responses to a student survey distributed electronically at the University of Toronto Mississauga in Spring 2021. The survey, which solicited responses from students across disciplines and academic years, was composed of quantitative questions posed on a seven-point Likert scale, as well as qualitative open-response questions. Over 300 respondents from a wide range of disciplines engaged with the survey.   

Science students’ perspectives on how to decrease the stigma of failure

Failure is hard-wired into the scientific method and yet teaching students to productively engage with failure is not foundational in most biology curricula. To train successful scientists, it is imperative that we teach undergraduate science students to be less fearful of failure and to instead positively accept it as a productive part of the scientific process. In this article, we focus on student perceptions of the stigma of failure and their associated concerns to explore how failure could be better supported within and beyond a university context. Through a survey of first-year biology students, we found that societal and familial pressures to succeed were the greatest contributing factors to students' fear of failure. In student suggestions on how to reduce the stigma of failure within and beyond the university context, the most common theme identified across both contexts was for increased discussion and open communication about experiences of failure. Importantly, student comments in this study bring attention to the role of factors beyond the classroom in shaping student experiences of failure within their biology courses.