Teaching Failures

Failure in teaching, as in may other areas of our lives, does not really get its fair amount of spotlight and fame. Most research findings are positive, most action research projects shown ‘significant improvement’ and most teachers succeed – at least on paper. Leaving the obvious reasons aside (publishers and journals favoring success, failing teachers are less likely to engage in reflection etc.), it there any other reason why we turn a blind eye towards failed attempts?

I believe that one more cause contributes to the trend: teachers’ activity is somehow a priori thought of as successful and the failure, if ever reported, is left to the learner. Our poor learner. “I am teaching them well but they are not learning anything.” a well known anecdote often cited is perhaps a good epitome of the problem. But certainly the problem is bigger that that and the education system is not exactly a Swiss watch manufacturer. Ken Robinson once compared school to a factory, where 20% (or any number of dropouts or students not learning enough of the curriculum to use it in life or further study) of the products would be defective. How long would the business be going? How many customers would look elsewhere? Would the quality assurance department take action?

In school, we don’t usually have QA. We have principals, parents and students sometimes providing feedback and test results. But we also have competition, targets to meet and expectations to ‘maintain the high standards through rigorous instruction’. Especially in private schools, teachers are sold as ‘experts’, enthusiastic teachers who make classes fun while teaching the students to be future CEOs. This leaves little space for ‘failure as part of the process’. This site is a naïve attempt to explore failure as a resource for real improvement and better practice.