These Learning through Failure Journals can be done as in-class reflective activities at multiple points during term.
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.
FAIL Is Not a Four-Letter Word: A Theoretical Framework for Exploring Undergraduate Students’ Approaches to Academic Challenges and Responses to Failure in STEM Learning Environments
Navigating scientific challenges, persevering through difficulties, and coping with failure are considered hallmarks of a successful scientist. However, relatively few studies investigate how undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students develop these skills and dispositions or how instructors can facilitate this development in undergraduate STEM learning contexts. This is a critical gap, because the unique cultures and practices found in STEM classrooms are likely to influence how students approach challenges and deal with failures, both during their STEM education and in the years that follow. To guide research aimed at understanding how STEM students develop a challenge-engaging disposition and the ability to adaptively cope with failure, we generate a model representing hypotheses of how students might approach challenges and respond to failures in undergraduate STEM learning contexts. We draw from theory and studies investigating mindset, goal orientations, attributions, fear of failure, and coping to inform our model. We offer this model as a tool for the community to test, revise, elaborate, or refute. Finally, we urge researchers and educators to consider the development, implementation, and rigorous testing of interventions aimed at helping students develop a persevering and challenge-engaging disposition within STEM contexts.
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.