Monday, July 27, 2015

6 Steps For Creating a Safe Failing Up Classroom

Failing UP is defined in the urban dictionary as: 
Failing Up - (verb, intransitive) to derive gain in spite of failure that would 
usually either preclude said gain or have adverse consequences.

Changing the implications of failing will open your students to a growth mindset. Make 'failing up' common language in your classroom.  Here are 6 tips to establish a safe environment for failing up:

1. Make mistakes yourself.

This is the best way to establish a safe environment, let your learners see you make mistakes. Invite them to work through them with you and encourage them to give you feedback (See #6 below) and help you arrive at solutions in the process.  

2. Define healthy responses to failure.

Make an anchor chart with your students. Keep it handy and refer to it often - here is an example:

3. Provide students with highly challenging tasks.

Carol Dweck found in her research that once a growth mindset is established, learners will embrace challenges.  If your learners know that there will be no negative consequences for their failure, and it is just a step in the process, they will begin taking more chances and embrace more and harder challenges.  Failing up will become their mode of learning. 

4. Celebrate the attempt.

Leah Alcala gives her students a hard problem as a warm up every day, each response gets feedback, but, she chooses her favorite mistake as a means for failing up.  Watch this video of her technique:

5. Open the floor to suggestions.

When analyzing mistakes, model respectful, specific feedback and encourage other students to do the same with their colleagues.  You can practice this by pairing students up and using sentence stems.  Here are some examples of stems you may want to give students to get the conversation started:

I disagree with your answer because . . .
You used a different strategy that I did . . .
I wonder why _________ happened . . .
Can you explain your strategy . . .
Can you explain why .  .  .
What would you do differently . . .

You can make up stems for the specific task and subject matter your are teaching.  After a few weeks of practicing in pairs or small groups, you class should be ready for a full class discussion like in the above video. 

6. Give specific feedback 
I will probably have several more posts on feedback as I gain a better understanding of it, but please know that feedback and praise are VERY different. Praise will not give the learner any insight into what went wrong (or right) in the learning process.  It is limited to comments like "great job" or "this answer is wrong".   Specific feedback looks something like this:  "You were asked to ________.  You did  ____ and ____, but you forgot step 3, that affected the final product" At this point you can ask, what other information the student may need to accomplish the task correctly. 

Do you have other techniques to make Failing up more comfortable for your students?  I would love to hear them and share with other readers. 

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