The Success of Failure

A quick note to say that the quality of failure assignment that I instituted in my undergraduate courses this semester has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. The vast majority of my students responded to the assignment with great insight. In case others want to use it, here are the directions for the assignment (modified from the original source, which can be accessed via the link above to Amanda’s post):

This course requires realizing that progress requires curiosity, risk-taking, and failure. Making a mistake leads to the question “Why was that wrong?” and by answering this Lohan question, we are better able to develop new insights and eventually succeed. You’ll need to fail regularly to do well in this course because part of your final grade is based on your “quality of failure.” At the end of the semester, you’ll need to write a 2-3 page double-spaced essay analyzing your failures, why they occurred, and what you have learned from them. Your essay must conclude with an assessment on how you have evolved through your mistakes in the course (a grade that ranges from 0 – meaning “I never failed” or “I learned nothing from failing” to 10 – meaning “I learned in new and creative ways from my failures”).

I believe that this type of assignment could be very usefully made part of student evaluations of teaching.

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