Session 224: Learning from Failure

FailurePromotionFailure and mistakes can be really de-motivating to pupils, and teachers alike. But rather than seeing mistakes and failures as an obstacle to further learning or understanding, it is possible to take these moments as opportunities to improve. For this UKEdChat session, Drew Buddie will explore how teachers can help pupils to learn from their mistakes and failures to help them progress with the learning. The main questions will ask:

  • What is the most important lesson you ever learned from failure?
  • How can failure be incorporated into an education system which places so much emphasis on examination success?
  • Teaching students to learn from failure – silver bullet or curate’s egg?
  • How can failure be best rewarded in the classroom?


In a fascinating session, the first question asked ‘what is the most important lesson participants had learned from failure’. Rather than answer the question directly, people noted how important learning from failure is, and educators should show children that this is an opportunity rather than an obstacle which cannot be mounted.

It didn’t take long for a Growth Mindset to be mentioned, but acknowledging and sharing failures with family or friends are essential to help understand the process experienced. Kieron Middleton reminded us, “You can learn from failure by gauging your efforts by expectations. You need feedback from a 3rd party in order to learn” (See Slide 27). So far as schools are concerned, Chris T added, “Failure is fine if there is a reflective environment for staff AND pupils to learn from too.” (See Slide 29). A supportive environment is key, despite the pressures of policy makers, parents, leaders etc.


  • Failure is not failure – it’s a learning opportunity.
  • Failure is an event, not a definition. If only we could remember that!
  • Failure can make or break you! Depends on how you deal with it.
  • You can have 10,000 explanations for failure, but no good explanation for success.
  • Your perception of ‘failure’ is relative to time, pressure, potential consequences, and opinions of others.

The session progressed looking at whether students failing allow for time to reflect, and how this can be taught. It was pointed out that some schools only celebrate ‘golden moments’ but not supporting a culture of risk taking and possible failures. Indeed, some children do not have a bank of experiences that tell them that failing is ok, and schools need to build a positive classroom culture. @manutdjax shared, “I always try to teach my pupils that ‘failure’ is not a problem and natural to learning” (See Slide 61).

Some tips:

  • Try to promote the ethos that if you have not had any failure you have not pushed yourself enough.
  • Design lessons that are trial and error based. The point being to fail so you learn more on how not to do things! Model trying again.
  • Teachers can model a ‘let’s try it and learn from what happens’ attitude with pupils to help them keep things in perspective.
  • Whenever a child says they “can’t do it” – always add “yet” back to them and get them to repeat it back. Makes them smile, if nothing else.

Building ‘failure’ formally into the classroom does seem to be a major challenge. At a subconscious level, do we fear failure in case we get mocked at or rejected by our peers? When is failure, as learning, built in to classroom, especially in an exam-based culture where success is so important? In fact, we were reminded, “Yet, it’s not alright to get your GCSEs “wrong” or to fail. Tricky.” (See Slide 142). It was felt that there is a need to create a culture where students know it’s OK to fail but also encourage them to explore the reasons for failure whilst assessing how we handle failure may be a useful indicator of mature disposition.

Tweet of the Week

I’m not sure we should encourage failure, instead we encourage acceptance of failure in the persistence and openness of trying (Slide 147, by Richard Millwood) –


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About UKEdChat Editorial 3188 Articles
The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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