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.
Compiled from a series of semi-structured interviews conducted in 2020 with tenured, pre-tenure, contingent faculty and postdoctoral fellows across the University of Toronto Mississauga, this “wish list” captures a snapshot of pedagogical techniques and changes desired by these instructors to facilitate equitable teaching, research, and policy around failure in higher education.
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.