Is failure the secret to success for pupils?

Convincing pupils that failure is the secret to success can be a tough ask…

It’s not a ground-breaking statement or anything new at all to suggest that people need to fail to succeed.

It’s the stuff of motivational quotes and speeches – a staple ingredient, in fact.

The notion that to be successful at something you first need to have tasted failure is heard consistently in the world of business and sport.

And, it applies to education equally as well.

Children are averse to failing and making mistakes

It can often seems that pupils see failure as one of their biggest fears.

Indeed, some seem to be scared of even making a mistake – Hands up if you’ve ever seen a pupil try to rip a page out of a book because they have made a simple mistake in their work?

Where the blame lies for this – the education system, continual testing, pressure from parents, teachers, peers… the truth is, in all honesty, it’s probably a combination of all of these factors.

And, apportioning blame isn’t the point of this piece.

The point is: How do we help our pupils appreciate the part failure can play in achieving success at school?

Allowing pupils to fail is vital to future success

Allowing pupils to make mistakes and to feel what failure is like is an important part of any future success.

Of course, you should never set pupils up to fail, but giving them coping strategies and the mental strength (as well as the academic knowledge) to make improvements when they fail to reach the standard, level or grade that was expected, is vital.

Fixed and growth mindsets

‘Failure’ is a word that is avoided at all costs in the vocabulary of schools today.

It is impossible to ‘fail’ exams –‘Unclassified’ is the lowest ‘grade’ that can be awarded.

However, failure is certainly something that pupils feel.

Dealing with disappointment can be difficult, yes, but often how a person respond comes down to the mindset that an individual has.

If your mindset is fixed, failure is fixed and it will become a permanent fixture.

However, if you have a growth mindset and believe you can take steps to get better at something, you really can.

Creating a positive mindset in the classroom is vital if pupils are to realise that failure can be a strength.

After all, nobody ever got better at something by getting things right all the time.

A growth mindset allows a person to see ‘intelligence’ or academic ability as something that is fluid and not fixed.

A growth mindsetter believes they can control and change how successful they can be.

Pupils with a growth mindset see failure as a temporary setback and as an opportunity to take stock, learn and become stronger as a result.



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