“I’m going to fail”: How youth interpret failure across contextual boundaries

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Resource Type:
Conference Proceedings | Reference Materials
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Summer and Extended Camps, Making and Tinkering Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs, Informal/Formal Connections, K-12 Programs
Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Learning Researchers
Art, music, and theater | Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Technology
Binghamton University, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Indiana University, Science Museum of Minnesota

This Conference Paper was presented at the International Soceity for the Learning Sciences Confernece in June 2018. We summarize interviews with youth ages 9-15 about their failure mindsets, and if those midsets cross boundaries between learning environments. 

Previous research on youth’s perceptions and reactions to failure established a view of failure as a negative, debilitating experience for youth, yet STEM and in particular making programs increasingly promote a pedagogy of failures as productive learning experiences. Looking to unpack perceptions of failure across contexts and potential differences between selfidentified sexes, youth who participated in making activities were interviewed about their experiences with failure and thoughts about the term. Youth’s perceptions of failure fell into four categories: failure as enhancing, failure as debilitating, failure as mosaic, and failure as fluid. For the majority of youth (70%), their perception of failure transcended situational boundaries and was not entirely negative as previous research suggested. These results have implications on design of learning contexts and complicate prevailing understandings of youths’ failure experiences. 

Funding Program: 
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Funding Program: 
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Publication Name: 
Proceedings of the International Society of the Learning Sciences

Team Members

Adam MalteseAuthor
Megan GoekeAuthor

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