Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A thought on failure...

I'm coming to the conclusion that, in order to help some students succeed, you MUST permit them to fail.

Yep -- fail. Fail an exam they aren't prepared for. Fail a paper that sucks. Fail a class they didn't give their full attention to.

At my CC I have many smart, talented and ambitious students. I also have quite a few that can barely make it out of their parents' basement for an 11:00 class...

Their high schools didn't do them any favors by letting them slide by. Other profs haven't done them any favors by holding their hands. My theory is that I can give them the best resources and teaching I can provide - BUT, it's up to them to take advantage of it.

My logic class is a perfect example.

I have a decent book. I'm experienced teaching -- hundreds, if not thousands of students have earned Bs or As with my teaching techniques. I put the answers to ALL the problems on my office door. I take the exam from the problems -- and, last but not least I have an AMAZING tutor.

About 20% of my logic students will fail Thursday's exam miserably. About 2/3 of them will re-take successfully -- and the rest of them will work with my AMAZING tutor --- or drift away.

In Logic -- at least in my class -- you choose to fail.... and I'm all about respecting choices.

5 comments:

Seeking Solace said...

There is an entire generation who cannot handle failure at all. These were the ones who got an award for just showing up. Not a good way to teach how life really is.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I agree -- they haven't been permitted to fail.

I don't pretend to teach them about the "real" world -- but, I can show them standards I hope others will follow in their later college experience.

Bardiac said...

I don't think it's just this generation; I knew plenty of people in my generation who needed some college-level failure to help them decide what was important.

But yeah, sometimes great students grow from the ashes of a failed test or class.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Very sad that no one let natural consequences (like FAILURE) kick in earlier...you know, when the tuition is free.

What Now? said...

you MUST permit them to fail

Amen. When I was teaching college, we had lots of students (almost always women, interestingly) who regularly had some sort of crisis from which they wanted to be rescued ... and, unfortunately, all too many faculty who obliged, thus reinforcing the lesson that failure wasn't actually an option. We do the same thing to a lesser extent at the high school where I now teach, and I can't quite decide at what age we need to step back and let the chips fall for students who are -- consciously or subconsciously -- screwing up.

It was failing in my first semester of college that prompted me to learn how to study and how to think, something that then took me two hard years to learn. It sucked at the time, but wow, I'm glad that no one made that failure go away so that I could continue in my previous ways.