I’ve been thinking about failure a lot this week, and strangely enough, it’s not because I have suffered a recent failure in my life. The reason failure is on my mind is that earlier in the week I was asked to explore the topic and start to change my mindset where failure is concerned. No one likes or enjoys failure, most of us avoid it at all costs, but the more I’ve thought about it this week, the more comfortable I have become with my view of failure. I honestly don’t think it’s a terrible thing and that was a shocking revelation.
Failure, you see, is just an excuse to try again and do it better the next time. It is a chance to LEARN and grow. In my classroom a failed recipe is never the end of the experience, it is the beginning of the investigation into WHY it failed and how we can make it work the next time. My students aren’t afraid of failing because they know it won’t be penalized. Instead, it will be analyzed for the learning it can provide and the new ideas it might spark. They know this because I’ve shared stories of my own failures with them and how they led to awesome creations, like Stuffed Bagel Balls and Inside Out Apple Fritters.
All this thinking about failure has started a reflection on my teaching as a whole. What does learning look like in my classroom? Does it transfer? What kind of learning do I value? Etc. To clarify all of my thoughts and how they interrelate I created the following infographic…
In the infographic, you see that something called constructionism is at the center of how I try to teach. Constructionism is an educational philosophy that is “based on the principle that meaningful learning occurs when individuals actively construct a meaningful product in the real world (Rob & Rob, 2018, p. 5). ” According to Rob & Rob constructionism can be summarized as students using past knowledge to construct new knowledge by collaborating and sharing with others to make meaningful real-world products. In my classroom, this comes to life. My students are always working together and what could be more “real-world” than the food that they are preparing?
My favorite class to teach is Advanced Baking because it is taught with a truly constructionist approach. We run a Bake Shop, and the students are tasked with creating new items for the menu. The process starts with brainstorming and dreaming of creative baked goods. Then students do research to figure out the best way to make it become a reality. They become makers in the kitchen, experimenting with recipes over and over until they get it perfect. Each failure is a chance to make it better next time around. When they have it perfected, the item is added to the menu and sold to our customers.
Transfer of knowledge is critical to this learning model. “The ability to apply what you have learned in one situation to another, connected situation” is the definition of transfer (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 53). Students must be able to use their existing knowledge in new situations to make creation possible. Problem-based learning, such as the Advanced Baking class, encourages transfer.
You may have noticed that I described the students as “Makers.” Maker culture has become very popular because it allows people to use technology to create and then share their creations with the rest of the world. While I was reading this week, I noticed quite a few parallels between maker culture and my classroom. In their journal article Cohen, Jones, Smith & Calandra(2016, p 223) note 4 “Principles of Makification.” They say that it involves creation, iteration, sharing, and autonomy. Those are all part of the Advanced Baking class described above.
In the end, after thinking about this all week, I think it comes down to giving students a good base of knowledge and then allowing students the autonomy they need to be makers in the classroom so they can actively transfer their knowledge to new situations and learn through failure (iterations) so in the end they create knowledge. It puts them in the driver’s seat of their own learning.
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.
Cohen, J., Jones, W. M., Smith, S., & Calandra, B. (2017). Makification: Towards a framework for leveraging the maker movement in formal education. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 26(3), 217-229.
Rob, M., & Rob, F. (2018). Dilemma between constructivism and constructionism: Leading to the development of a teaching-learning framework for student engagement and learning. Journal of International Education in Business, 11(2), 273-290.