Learning

Failure Is An Option

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So often, the sentiment above is what echoes in our minds when we start something new. But what if it wasn’t? What if instead we focused on the idea that failure was an option – as long as we fail well?

The keynote speaker at the AGIS (Association of German International Schools) Conference was Lance G. King: a fellow New Zealander with a dry sense of humor and a passion for failure. His keynote often referenced the work of Carol Dweck with regard to establishing a growth mindset over a fixed mindset.

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His talk, however, primarily focused on the ideas of failure and resilience. In his research he noted that the key difference in the success of students was not that one group failed and one was successful, it was that one group failed well and the other failed badly:

*All slides are from Lance King’s Website: The Art of Learning

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So, how do we encourage students to fail well? King shared the following ‘Failure Cycle’ in which teachers actively guide students in the process of considering their actions, taking responsibility for what was done (or not done), and setting in place a plan for doing something differently the next time around:

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Lance is an advocate of skills based teaching and has taken a lead role in the re-development of Approaches to Learning for the new MYP curriculum. In addition to content acquisition,  he demands a focus on skill acquisition with the role of the teacher being one of guiding students through the process of successful failure.  He (ironically? sarcastically?) asks the following of teachers:

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Well? This is the reality for many people, yet has our teaching changed? Like Sal Khan, I believe Lance King is not suggesting that we replace teachers with computers.  What they are both suggesting is that we embrace the power of technology and elevate the role of the teacher from content deliverer to skills guide or even failure coach.

Some questioned Lance as to wether the notion of supporting failure amongst students would not simply lead to apathy and lack of effort on their part: “My teacher says it is ok to fail”. If this mindset were to develop, we have done the students a disservice in not putting emphasis where it belongs.  It is not ‘just’ failure we are embracing but failing well. If you were to review the cycle (above), you will see that it actually takes quite a bit of work to fail well. We are in an age when we are seeing ideas, innovation, solutions to problems that don’t even exist yet. We won’t get where we need to be without first embracing, accepting, and even celebrating our failures, first.

Like most things, this approach of embracing failure is going to take some educating amongst parents, teachers, and students in order to be successful. There seems to be such an emphasis on success that is direct, clean, linear.  But rarely is this the case:

Last year, I shared this video with my fourth graders and had them draw their own version of success.  I asked them to think about a time they were successful at something and then to think back as to how they got that way.  Did they just wake up and be a brilliant skier? An amazing artist? A super reader? What did the journey look like from not knowing to being successful?

All of the twists and turns and bumps and gaps along the way point to the resilience each student developed in order to make their way to ‘success’.

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Not giving up, looking for new solutions, believing in yourself, pushing yourself beyond what you think you know.  These are all characteristics of resilience that can be summed up in this humorous clip that your students will get a kick out of:

So how do we get here?  As Lance said in his presentation at the IB Conference in Madrid, “The most motivated learning is self-regulated”. This is something we have all seen to be true: passion, interest, and curiosity driving learning. As teachers, we would need to develop a classroom culture that supports self-regulated learning (SLR):

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So, what now?

My suggestion would be to look at the Approaches to Learning and start thinking about how these skills can play a more prominent role in your classroom.  One way of doing this (or easing in to this if this is totally new to you) would be to take a look at this reflective blog post from Mags Faber, in which she tries out split screen teaching in order to draw attention to the skills she is trying to focus on.

How do you build resilience, allow students to self-regulate, and teach your kids to fail well?

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Learning, Math

Failure is a Prerequisite…And 2 Math Gems

Have I mentioned I love Gaping Void?  Good.

Here is one of their latest posts:

Failure

 

The cartoon was accompanied by the text: “it’s something we tell our children every day”.  

Do we?

Sometimes I wonder.

My kids use Khan Academy for math.  At the moment we are working on fractions (fourth graders) and we have just started to move into unchartered waters for some students.  They are unsure.  They don’t know what they are doing.  They are scared to fail.  I can see it in their hesitation, their avoidance of tasks that are deemed “too hard”.  So, what to do?

Today, I decided to show them the coaches report that I generated for the links we are working on at the moment.  It looks like this:

Khan Academy

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, red means “struggling”, grey is “not yet started”, the pale blue means “practiced”, slightly darker blue means “level one”, darker still means “level two”, and the darkest blue is “mastered”. When I pulled this graph up, there were a few gasps around the room.  Struggling!  Red! Oh no! I got everyone’s attention on the board and said, “There are some people I am very concerned about according to this graph.  Do you know who they are?”

Of course, “the red people” was the chorus around the room. When I asked why, the response was that those people were not doing good, that they didn’t know, that they were failing.

No, I told them.  They are not the people I am concerned about. I am concerned about the grey people – the ones who are yet to try.  If you are in the red or in the blue, I know how to help you, how to move you on from where you are at. If you won’t try or haven’t tried, how can I know how to help you?  You might fail, yes.  But you might succeed too.  And I know that if you do move to the red, you won’t be there for long because “failure is the prerequisite for learning”.

I promised you “2 math gems” = and here they are:

 

Gem #1

If you are at all like me, you have written a test for students that requires them to show their work. Well, last weekend, I read this article that invites students to choose whether or not they show their working.  The ideas behind this option are sound and really made me question why I ask this of my students and wonder what the consequence is on thinking in my students.  The author, David Ginsburg, goes on to suggest mixing up the usual “show your thinking” question with a different take on the format: He suggests giving students a completed equation and asking them to explain why it is or is not correct.  This naturally means they have to explain their thinking.

 

Gem #2

Via one of my favorite blogs, Engage their Minds, I was introduced to the math version of Would You Rather…? It is awesome – and just happened to have a fraction problem up today which suited us perfectly.

Would You Rather....?

A quick run-through of the site shows me that some decent math skills are required but there is also the element of personal choice BUT you must explain your choice MATHEMATICALLY (not just based on personal preference).  It is really cool – check it out. I can see kids making these for each other too.  And if you have younger kids, Terri from ETM, has created some Would You Rather questions for Valentines Day with a slightly lower level of math skills needed.  Check it out!

Innovation, Organization, Uncategorized

Reasons You Haven’t “Made It”, How To Keep Going, and Why You Are Enough

I am quickly falling in love with thisisindexed.com

Simple.  To the point. Witty.

What’s not to love?

I plan on sharing these with my kids tomorrow.  I am intrigued to see what they will think of the use of graphic images to tell such a story.  I think some will LOVE it.  I have fresh index cards and new fine point black sharpies ready too 🙂

We have them thinking about how they are going to eventually share their learning at the end of the process and before they head towards my worst nightmare (reading me a powerpoint) I thought it wise to throw this one up for good measure:

In addition, I would like to share with them 12 Truths to Tell Yourself After A Failure or A Mistake as we conclude the first week of our PYP Exhibition.  I have listed the 12 but for more detail read the full post and remember:

Failure is a prerequisite for great success. If you want to succeed faster, double your rate of failure.

Here are the 12:

  • It’s okay.  You will be okay.
  • There is no success without failure.
  • Positive thinking creates positive results.
  • Success is always closer than it seems.
  • You are not your mistakes.
  • Life’s best lessons are learned at unexpected times.
  • Mistakes are rarely as bad as they seem.
  • Not getting what you want can be a blessing.
  • You have the capacity to create your own happiness.
  • Mistakes are simply a form of practice.
  • You are making progress.
  • Life goes on.

If you have ever been part of the PYP Exhibition, you will know what a huge and sometimes daunting task it can be – especially when you are 10 or 11 years old!  In light of this – and in addition to everything we have done thus far to prepare and support our kids – I was just thinking that tomorrow I will also read them a book from one of my favorite author/illustrators, Peter H. Reynolds.  The book is called “So Few Of Me” and if you are a Reynolds fan (and even if you are not!) you will not be disappointed.  Here is what Peter had to say about his book:

If The Dot is about getting started, and Ish is about keeping going once you get rolling, So Few of Me is about making sure you save enough time in the rush- rush world we live in to actually BE creative. Dedicated to my twin brother, Paul Reynolds, So Few of Me is a tale of an over-scheduled, multi- list-making, over-worked boy on a journey to get it all done. Of course, that’s not just a tall order, it’s a tall tale. Life’s list never really ends, but we have the power to be ruled by the list… Or to put it down — and dream. You might know a few people in your life that might need a gentle reminder to slow it down a notch. I know I will have to re-read my book once a week to keep myself journeying at a safe speed!