Teacher Argues for the Value of Failure

By Sarah D. Sparks — January 04, 2011 1 min read
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Failure is never in fashion. Research journals don’t often rush to publish a study that finds the latest innovative reading program isn’t effective with poor inner-city students. And advocates of data-driven decision-making often find school leaders reluctant to dig into dismal state math tests beyond the most basic question of how to raise scores, fast.

That’s why I was struck by this recent speech by Diana Laufenberg, an 11th-grade American history teacher at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, on TED, a site which posts expert lectures on a variety of subjects. Ms. Laufenberg argues for the value of teaching through examining failure, not just to “fix” mistakes but to explore new ways of looking at problems and talking about solutions. Ms. Laufenberg’s students discuss their student projects collectively, noting what worked and what didn’t.

Here’s the full video:

In a high stakes education environment, it may be difficult for practitioners and researchers to take a relaxed, curious approach to exploring failure, but Ms. Laufenberg’s perspective suggests adults as well as children can learn more from doing so.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.