Reflecting on failure is a critically important component of the learning process. However, relatively little scholarship to date has examined instructor perspectives of failure, including how failure informs their approaches to teaching and learning. This case study explores instructor perspectives on failure using data collected from a series of semi-structured interviews conducted across disciplinary departments at the University of Toronto Mississauga. When contemplating how and/ or whether to incorporate failure pedagogy, instructors considered how interlocking systems of power shaped both their own and their students’ positionalities and willingness to engage with failure. Three interlocking themes emerged, with instructors describing (1) failure as privilege, (2) failure as simultaneously a valuable pedagogical tool and an institutional risk, and (3) a disconnect between instructor desires to facilitate generative failure and the limitations of institutional policy in supporting such endeavors. The study finally explored how instructors, in light of existing power structures, suggested navigating institutional politics, incorporating new pedagogical techniques, and constructing support systems that could aid students in embracing, learning from, and bouncing back from failure.

Suggested Citation

Ross, J. N., Guadagnolo, D., Eastman, A., Petrei, M., Bakaj, A., Crupi, L., Liu, S., Laliberte, N., & Rawle, F. (2023). Instructor Perspectives on Failure and Its Role in Learning in Higher Education. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 14(2). https://webcdn.worcester.edu/currents-in-teaching-and-learning/wp-content/uploads/sites/65/2023/01/Currents-14-02-Ross-Guadagnolo-Eastman-Petrei-Bakaj-Crupi-Liu-Laliberte-Rawle-Instructor-Perspectives-on-Failure-in-Learning-in-Higher-Education.pdf


Jennifer N. Ross
Dan Guadagnolo
Abby Eastman
Matthew Petrei
Angela Bakaj
Laura Crupi
Shirley Liu
Nicole Laliberte
Fiona Rawle


Currents in Teaching and Learning
Vol. 14, No. 2


Productive failure, generative failure, instructor perspectives of failure, higher education

Publication Date

January 2023

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