|Thought of the day – Importance of failure|
|We all want our children to succeed, don’t we? What many of us overlook, however, is that allowing them to fail is an important part of any future success. London 2012 saw Team GB achieving remarkable success but among the medal winners were those who failed to live up to expectations (both theirs and ours).
Athletes, however, are more able to handle failure than the schoolchildren studying for exams in the high-pressure environment of compulsory education. This is perhaps in part due to the massive commitment world class athletes need in order to stay at the top of their game, but is also down to the work carried out by sports psychologists, who played an important role in the success of British athletes. The difference is that top athletes are often as familiar with their mental states as they are with their physical capabilities.
Note that I have no issue with the use of the oft-derided term fail, for without failure there would be no success, would there? Fail is not a popular word in education, even if you have failed your A levels you will still be awarded an unclassified – it’s as if the word itself would make failure inevitable. Of course athletes know how to deal with failure because they have a greater understanding of their own personal psychology, which in turn leads to greater mental strength (to add to their obvious physical strength) and a higher level of psychological resilience.
Many of us (both pupils and those involved in education) remain relatively ignorant of the link between psychology and success, assuming that, for example, our intelligence is of fixed, innate and unchangeable quantity. In fact, adolescent intelligence (as measured by IQ scores) fluctuates considerably, leading Angela Duckworth (an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) to conclude that academic success is more to do with
Abilities are therefore flexible rather than fixed. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck believes that success and failure are determined by what the individual understands about himself or herself, dividing the world into those who have fixed mindsets and those with growth mindsets.
Fixed ‘mindsetters’ are of the opinion that success and failure are somehow genetically programmed into us so that the child who believes themselves to be unintelligent will never be able to succeed academically; more worrying is that those teachers with a fixed mindset employ their own preconceptions and prejudices and transfer them onto those who fulfil the requirements of the successful student or the failure.
Contrast this with the growth ‘mindsetter’. Dweck found that teachingyoung children about the way in which the brain learns actually made them more likely to succeed in academic tests. A growth mindset allows us to believe that our intelligence is a fluid entity and we have great control over how intelligent we are and how successful we can be. Those with a growth mindset view failure as a temporary stop on the way to success, in the same way that an Olympic cyclist views missing out on a medal as an opportunity to assess, improve and get that gold medal next time around.
If success is within our personal control then the way in which we praise pupils should reflect this view. Praising innate abilities ("You’re very clever") leads to a fixed mindset (as does telling a child that they provided a very good answer even if the answer was completely wrong), praising the effort, on the other hand, makes success about hard work rather than something that is given. Pointing out how and why failure has occurred should be seen as part of the learning process, rather than an end in itself. Failure should be seen as an opportunity to grow and should never be brushed under the carpet in order to conceal our embarrassment or shame.
So, let’s hear it for failure. You’re just one more step on the road to success.
|Brain teaser of the day|
|Can you remove three matches to leave three squares?
Answer for the last riddle is 2. Adding the four numbers in the center of each side results in 20. Similarly the sides should be summed up to 20.
|Have a great day!