Failure and Success in Learning

Failure is bad.  Failure is rejection.  Failure is the end.  These are the messages we sometimes receive from society.  This is how we often feel when we "fail".  Carol Dweck recently wrote a book called Mindset.  In her book she explores two divergent mindsets that often define learners: fixed and growth mindsets.  Obviously, there is enough detailed theory and data behind this concept for an entire book, but one major theme she touches on is our response to failure.

A person with a fixed mindset sees failure as I describe it above--a final judgement of inadequacy.  A growth mindset takes failure in stride--a bump in the road on the way to their destination.  For a growth mindset, failure is not an end but a minor learning experience that guides them in a different direction. Edison is a perfect example of a growth mindset. 

I found this information to be so powerful that I wanted to share it with my kids.  I made a How We Learn activity to start our year off.  I want my kids to embrace "failure" as a guidepost to redirect their learning.  Today, I gained the final piece of the puzzle. 

About a month ago, I applied to the Google Teacher Academy.  I wanted in.  I really wanted in.  I love Google--their technology runs my classroom and they inspire me.  Me applying to Google is like Rudy applying to Notre Dame.  I really, really wanted to be a part of the team.  I filled out the lengthy application including a 1 minute video that I made about motivation.  I learned today that I failed.  I didn't get in. 

Initially, I was pretty disappointed--I really thought I would be chosen.  My family was quick to console me.  As I reflected on my feelings, I was reminded of my How We Learn activity.  I took a shot and failed, but this is not the end, and I certainly wouldn't want my students to be devastated and give up.  I'm going to share this experience with my students.  I'm going to tell them how I plan on learning more and applying the next time the Google Teacher Academy is geographically near where I live.  I will be a Google Certified Teacher.


  1. I've recently done a study about failure tolerance amongst my students, so this book looks a perfect follow on. Roughly I found that high flying perfectionists hated failure and were extremely discouraged, underperformers expected failure but didn't know how to get out of it, and the students who participated the most saw failure as something that was important and necessary and that they could learn from it, now I just need to spread that mindset amongst all of them!

    1. What an excellent study! Feel free to use any of my materials I linked above and thank you for your comments!


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