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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Illustration of a target with arrows that have missed the mark on the ground below.

Failure is an inevitable part of life, but it's often accompanied by shame -- most people do everything in their power to avoid it. But to paraphrase educational philosopher John Dewey, a true thinker learns as much from failures as from successes. What if educators worked to take some of the sting (and the stigma) out of failing, and encouraged reflection and revision to build upon the lessons learned? Perhaps there's a goldmine of opportunities if we can re-frame failure as a valuable learning experience, an essential step along the path to discovery and innovation. Check out this list of videos to help start the conversation about embracing failure.

Video Playlist: Freedom to Fail Forward

Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.

  1. P&G Thank You, Mom | Pick Them Back Up (02:00)

    This ad was launched during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, and you can see why it was a crowd-pleaser -- it's a moving reminder of how many times you have to fall before you can run and the importance of getting a little help from someone who believes in you.

  2. Failure: The Secret of Success (08:19)

    This short film is actually a Honda ad, but it makes its point beautifully, describing how innovation only comes from willingness to try new things and take risks -- illustrated by interviews with engineers, designers, and race car drivers.

  3. Famous Failures (02:58)

    If you can get past the overly-dramatic voiceover and shamelessly motivational music, this little video is a nice visual list of people who failed early in their lives but went on to become incredibly successful. Maybe play it without sound?

  4. You Don't Know Jack (03:44)

    I had to share this brilliant video one more time. High school student Jack Andraka was rejected by 199 professors before one agrees to let him explore his idea for a solution to fight pancreatic cancer in the lab. Learn more about Jack Andraka here.

  5. Audri's Rube Goldberg Monster Trap (04:06)

    Watch an enthusiastic seven-year-old attempt to make a complex Rube Goldberg machine work. Audri doesn't let his first few failures slow him down, and his exuberance when he succeeds is infectious.

  6. Fast Company Exclusive: Inside Google X (05:12)

    Take a rare sneak peek inside Google X's notoriously secretive Design Kitchen, where creative thinkers are encouraged to take "moonshots" and fail quickly with rapid prototyping to solve global problems.

  7. The Roses of Success (02:45)

    Want to teach the littlest ones about embracing failure? Show this rather ridiculous musical number from the 1968 musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, where a troop of aged inventors enthusiastically sing "from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success." 'Nuff said.

More Resources on Embracing Failure

The ability to grow and keep trying when you don't succeed -- resilience and grit -- are key to cultivating a growth mindset, in academics and in life. I like how the business world has coined the term "failing forward" to mean using mistakes as stepping stones along the road towards achieving your goals. For young people in school, how can we provide them with the tools to see failure not as shameful, but as a necessary step towards success? Check out some of the resources and articles below for more discussion. How do you help your kids to fail forward?

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ABullockteaches's picture

This is what we should be teaching our students. Failure promotes problem solving and critical thinking skills.

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