3 Simple Teaching Strategies to Help Your Students Fail Forward

6 October 2011

rp_male-21.jpgIn the previous post we looked at why a student will give up on a task in class after failing but repeatedly fail at a computer game only to become more determined to learn from their mistakes and succeed.  A major reason is that gaming is built on the 3 fundamental building blocks of intrinsic motivation.

Since the previous post I have had numerous discussions with teachers from right around the world looking at teaching strategies to help your students fail forward.  Below is a list of the best 3 that we have come up with:

1.  Tell students they are not allowed to ask for your help for at least five minutes.

The thinking behind this teaching strategy is that this will encourage the students to become creative in solving their own problems.  They might ask a friend, ‘Google’ it or simply just have a go.  I am a firm believer that the most successful students in the future will not be the ones that can remember the most facts but rather the ones who can solve the most problems!

2.  Ask the students what they have tried before you help them with the answer

Once again the thinking behind this teaching strategy is that you are holding the students accountable for the learning.  In essence you are asking the student what they have tried and learnt from their failure that might help you solve the problem together.  The way I see this working is that a student says to you I have tried this and found that this was the result to which the teacher would then reply “Ok so if that is what happened I wonder what would happen if we tried this…”  When you engage the student in this way you are not simply giving them an answer but rather guiding them in the problem solving process.

3.  Show your students the bigger picture.

I was reminded of the power of this teaching strategy the other day with my own 8 year old daughter.  She was struggling with a violin piece that she was practicing for a performance.  My wife and I had tried all sorts of ideas to keep her motivated and stop her from giving up.  In the end the one strategy that worked was talking to her about how far she had developed.  We reminded her of other times when she had become stuck with a piece and that with persistence and the right mentoring she had got through that.  When she understood the context and was able to step back from the problem she was fuelled by a new perspective and went on to perform that piece beautifully (proud dad moment)

What teaching strategies have you found help your students to fail forward?

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