Posted by: crudbasher | December 20, 2010

Do Teachers Learn From Failure Too?

I watched this recent TED talk by Diana Laufenberg I saw mentioned on Free Technology for Teachers.

It’s a very enjoyable video and talks about how once information gets put into the student’s hands via a 1:1 laptop program, the teacher’s role changes.  She also discussed how when you are in that kind of learning environment, we have to allow the students time to explore and to fail.  Through failure, they will then learn the right lessons and will internalize the learning.

I agree completely, however time is always a factor.  As long as we have the factory model of education, finishing on time will be more important than what the students have learned. That’s not what this post is about though.

One of the big battles raging in this country about Education is whether or not to assess teachers.  Issues like Merit Pay, evaluation based in part on student test scores, and even if we can fire bad teachers, this is all boiling over.  So here is my question:

If you don’t have any way to evaluate teachers, how can they learn from failure? In fact, how does a teacher fail?  Right now, I would submit as long as a suitable number of students passes along to the next grade, that is considered a success. This is because in a factory model, it’s the number of products produced that matters.  When the president talks about increasing the number of graduates from high school or the number of people enrolling in college, that is kind of vague without talking about quality. If you want to increase the number of high school grads, why don’t we make the school easier?  If you do that, you could use less experiences teachers and even pay them less so the costs go down.

But does that serve the students well?  I doubt it.  We want good teachers.  They became good teachers because they learn from mistakes.  They need to be evaluated somehow.

Any ideas how?



  1. Great post… and quite a tough situation.

    For me, this seems to relate back to some of your earlier posts where you were talking about the education system of the future. People teaching when they wanted, being evaluated from below by the students. The “bad” teachers just quit getting business. I wonder how that could work in the context of a public school. One of my daughter’s classes when she was a senior in high school seemed to fit this model. This instructor’s class got smaller and smaller all year – while the alternatives were overflowing.

    Higher ed does have some of this built in. Lousy instructors get identified (by students) over time and subsequent students try to avoid their classes. Of course, some colleges get around this by not publishing instructors’ names until enrollment is over.

    Keep up the great work.

  2. i can say Yes..! Not specifically teachers also, but as a human every body learns from the mistakes or experiences that teach and make more practical in life to handle. Interesting read and a nice written. thanks for sharing the article.

  3. The system needs to evolve. Here’s my solution: for all of the rote learning that goes on in school, have the students complete it through virtual modules. They can complete this night or day- yes trained faculty would have to be present in the labs to monitor and help. The virtual modules would be set up in a way that students learn from their mistakes- they have to learn BEFORE they can move on. And here’s the best part- the virtual modules can be adaptable to a student’s learning style. Students can listen, watch, and interact until they learn. These virtual modules can be done collaboratively or individually. Students can ask a networking community of friends around the world for help. These are not meant to be boring!

    The rest of the school day would be spent experimenting, discussing, interning.
    This isn’t all my idea. When I read Disrupting Class, it all made complete sense.

    This world is always changing, and the time has come that this system doesn’t work anymore.

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