Education and the management of failures

[Originally published in Spanish here]

The conventional educative system is based in skipping failures building itineraries to allow students to gradually achieve milestones until they arrive to the final goal. In this process errors are considered problems and in this sense they do not generate effective learning. However, in alternative learning models, errors and failures are key elements. Looking at these models I’m specially interested in two cases: one of them is considered education in the social and institutional sense whereas the other is a practice and conceptual framework that constitutes a powerful tool for individual and organizational learning although it is not used to be considered education. The first is the methodology developed by Team Academy / Tiimi Akatemia, born in the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), and that we are applying in the bachelor LEINN (Liderazgo Emprendedor e Innovación) in the University of Mondragón and by Teamlabs in the Madrid intinerary of this official degree. The second one is prototyping as an strategy and methodology to respond to challenges with a creative, experimental and rapid approach. In both approaches errors are accepted and, besides that, they are the result of a  a planned process to allow they to emerge to generate opportunities for learning. In someways errors are designed.

When prototyping the essence is the experimentation, designing and implementing a minimal dispositive to assess our hypotheses (questions) and get information (answers). We learn both from hypotheses that are falsified (errors) as from those that are validated. In fact, prototyping is directly connected with the scientific method that produces knowledge through a continuous process of falsification of hypotheses that in this sense are always provisional, as the own knowledge. In Team Academy the design of the learning processes (the development of projects by entrepreneurs, the methodology of teamwork, and the teamcoaches roles) produces the generation of errors that are used as “materials for learning”. In both cases, each error is identified, visualized and the conclusions obtained allow to get a critical understanding of the mistakes and in this sense to modify future behaviours and strategies. This learning is significant because it is grounded in experiences that are real and personal, and deeper than the success-based learning. Also, the error-based learning empower the emotional skills of the learner that has to accept failures as a unavoidable part of the process. When somebody moves from the conventional educative system to other that manages failures in an active way the main barrier is to shift to a mental framework that allows us to understand errors as an effective learning and not as a failed learning. Managing the anxiety that experience the learner during this transition is probably the main challenge.

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