CEP 812: Wicked Problem – Failure as a Mode of Learning

John Merrow, an education reporter that began working with the National Public Radio in 1974 states that, “Students need to know that adults try and fail and fail and fail — and keep on trying. More than that, they need to experience failure” (2015)” People face difficulties everyday that challenges them to think critically in order to solve problems Sometimes those difficulties can only be solved after a few failures and then a final solution is found. Although most would view failure in a negative context, others would argue that failure is a way to learn new concepts. In 2015, the New Horizon Project Summit Communiqué considered, “allowing failure to be as powerful a learning mode as success” a wicked problem in education.

The wicked problem of using failure as a learning mode cannot be solved with a single solution. Using failure as a learning tool is something that can be effectively achieved by intentionally tapping into certain aspects of failure. By implementing a pedagogy that pulls ideas from the scientific model students will engage in a more thorough learning process. 

The idea of failure is learned at an early age because of all the new things children try.  Riding a bike, tying a shoe, or hitting a baseball are just a few examples of learning through failure. If children are used to failure, why do schools create such negativity towards learning through failure? How can teachers create an environment where failure is accepted and help students learn more?

Find out why we think using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is one solution to this problem. Read this collaborative paper about Failing in order to learn here.



Merrow, J. (2015, May 27). Why failure is crucial for a student’s success. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/failure-crucial-students-success/

(2015 NMC Horizon Project Summit Communiqué) Definition The New Media Consortium, 2013  page 1

Photo Credit:

Geral, T. (2014). Free Image on Pixabay – Success, Failure, Street Sign. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from https://pixabay.com/en/success-failure-street-sign-shield-259710/


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