FLIP Resource

Visualizing the Power and Privilege of Failure in Higher Education


Learning from failure is a core component to education, however it is not often deliberately taught in university courses. In addition, while the rhetoric around taking risks, embracing failure, and bouncing back is pervasive in higher education, the corresponding structural supports are lacking. The purpose of the current work is to explore ways we can visualize and illustrate the power and privilege involved with embracing and learning from failure in the context of higher education. We offer three approaches to visualizing the same set of research data exploring student and instructor experiences of failure. The first figure is structured using a Venn diagram, the second uses a mobius strip, and the third draws on both puzzle imagery and the structure of a kernmantle rope to offer a more complex rendition of power and privilege in higher education. These illustrations are intended to serve as introductory guides to this topic. This work emphasizes that power is diffuse and mutable, and we underscore the critical importance of recognizing that each person will experience power and privilege differently in different circumstances. This exploration of illustrative concepts is a place to start theorizing about how students and instructors experience, resist, or wield power as they navigate academic institutions and engage with failure.  We note that each instance of struggle, failure, or recovery exhibits specific configurations of power as multiple vectors contribute more or less strongly to the situation. The exact topography of power will change as different people, areas of the institution, or social policies and values enter the equation.

Suggested Citation

Ross, J., Dey, P., Baffour, E., Abdellatiff, Y., Tjan, E., Guadagnolo, D., Laliberte, N., & Rawle, F. (2022). Visualizing the power and privilege of failure in Higher Education. Imagining SoTL, 2(2), 2–23. https://doi.org/10.29173/isotl609


Jennifer Ross
Pooja Dey
Esther Baffour
Yasmin Abdellatiff
Emily Tjan
Dan Guadagnolo
Nicole Laliberte
Fiona Rawle


Imagining SoTL: Selections from the Banff Symposium
Vol. 2, No. 2


Higher education, power, privilege, visualization, educational research, SoTL, critical race theory, feminism

Publication Date

20 December 2022

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