By Guest Blogger Donna Wilson
Imagine if all the great inventors and scientists throughout history
used failure as an excuse to give up. Would we have ever had
electricity? The telephone? The airplane? The Internet? A cure for polio
or other eradicated diseases?
Even the most successful
individuals among us have failed at something in our lives.
Persistence, adaptability and experimentation have enabled us to move
past those failures to find subsequent success. Sometimes, however,
keeping students motivated to try in the aftermath of a failure can be
very challenging for teachers (and parents).
may interpret failure as being caused by an inherent lack of ability, in
which case they won't be inclined to redouble their efforts so that
they can succeed at a similar task the next time. If students attribute
their failure to something that is inherent within their being, they are
more likely to develop a pessimistic outlook that will thwart
successful learning in the future.
approach to brain-based teaching and learning is based on the
principle: Never question ability, always improve strategy. By teaching
students that failure is a temporary setback that can be overcome by
employing effective strategies for learning, we believe its possible for
students to build a sense of mastery that drives optimism and
As Marcus Conyers and I explain in our book, 60 Strategies for Increasing Student Learning,
the key is to help students feel good when they do well and hit the
"save key" on their successes. Our approach is to guide students in
building a success file filled with concrete and authentic academic
Children may learn pessimism from the
media, movies, or significant adults in their lives. They often develop
what motivational researchers call learned helplessness. After repeated
failure, students who suffer from this problem decide they are not
capable of performing well on academic tasks. Often they are not
motivated to perform tasks at school because they feel they won't
succeed. These students may seem negative or withdrawn, expressing
little interest in school and having poor academic performance.
Eventually they may even drop out of school, which is costly for
themselves personally as well as for society as a whole.
good, dedicated teachers and parents we know help students succeed by
being partners in their learning. Teachers who have high expectations
for each student who enters their classroom set the stage for success.
By communicating the important message that all students can learn and
succeed, and by helping students see the positive aspects of their
efforts even when they fail, teachers make a real and important
difference. You help students realize that learning takes effort, and by
putting in the necessary work, they will be able to succeed at school.