Well it may appear to be a silly title, however is failure really the key to success?
I ask this question after seeing first hand how some people can really fear failing at a task. It does appear that we now live in a world where the word "fail" has become a feared word. Quite why it is so feared is such an unknown? Maybe it does highlight the lack of resilience and independence within our education system. After having conversations with a number of academics it has become clear that some learners just love seeing "ticks", even if those ticks are meaningless or the work is many levels below what would challenge the learner.
The obsession with some teachers is to try and chase targets and micro manage every stage of the learning process. This is most probably having an adverse impact on the natural ability of learners. How do you create independent learners when a teacher "spoon feeds" the content, organises a revision program, ticks and flicks though effectively work that has been copied from a board? Quite simply, we don't! What we actually are creating is more needy and less independent learners, however then as teachers we will complain when they can't synthesise information or evaluate critically.
So what can we do differently? Firstly we need to instil some independence within our learners. This needs to be a whole school approach to be successful. It means we have to move away from this robotic target driven approach, to a realistic approach that not everyone will be successful at their first attempt. We also need to refocus the idea that "intervention" is the solution to bringing about achievement for those who are under achieving. What needs to be in place is an increase in expectations of independent learning, along with an increase in testing. This will enable learners to firstly realise that to learn takes time and effort, however failure to work on this independently will result in failure! This failure of course should then be a tool to drive and push students to want to improve and increase their levels of independence.
If a student fails and then expects extra revision and support, well we in education are failing. I believe a good teacher is someone who offers that support and is available to anyone, should they require assistance. However at the same time, I firmly believe this should be instigated by the learner. After all what is the point of trying to force someone to learn, as the effective learning that will take place, will be much lower than that which takes place when students actually want to learn. We live in a world where time is money and we strive for the most efficient ways of completing tasks, however when it comes to education we appear to still have a view in this aspect that forcing the process is the most successful.
Why do I believe that failure should be encouraged? Quite simply because its the best motivational tool that any of us ever get. Think about sports day at school. When its done well everyone wants to win. No one wants to come 2nd or 3rd. That tastes like a defeat and inspires us to try harder. This mentality is what is missing in the classroom at times. The ranking of assessments and the comparison against others can be an excellent tool to inspire that independent learning which we want to encourage.
Taking that into the classroom, should we not be trying to increase the competitive edge in our classroom? Pitching the students in the equivalent of a sports race, where each is striving and pushing for the gold medal. If a student fails an internal assessment, rather than becoming the obsession of some "intervention" and removing more independence, should we not be actually highlighting that failure and using it as a channel to bring about success? This could be to try and achieve x% next time or to move x places in the league table within the class. However by doing just this we are creating an interest and desire to learn, which can only be good in the long run.
Just think by the time the students reach their final of the Olympic games (final exams), they are ready and prepared. They have experienced the failure and channelled this into a resource that has set about enabling their success. Otherwise who really is the owner of that success the student or the teacher who just "micro managed" everything to get the student though this process?