success in progress

We’ve previously discussed the importance of providing ‘Failure culture’ when Invent to Learn says we should focus on Constructionist education. What makes more sense to you?

Based on constructivist learning theory, which puts forth the idea that learning occurs when an individual constructs a new understanding of a concept based on prior knowledge and experience, Papert’s constructionism suggests that this learning is more powerful if the student is simultaneously engaged in a hands-on, real-world activity that is significant to that individual.

The authors of Invent to Learn assert that constructionism is the ideal method of teaching to support the maker movement. While I am in strong favor of utilizing constructionist principles in educational settings, without the provision of a supportive environment that recognizes the truly beneficial nature of failure, children will not feel empowered to take chances, solve problems, and learn deeply.

“When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves. They begin to see themselves as learners who have good ideas and can transform their own ideas into reality. When we acknowledge that there may be many right answers to a question, it gives children permission to feel safe while thinking and problem solving, not just when they answer correctly. When we honor different kinds of learning styles it becomes acceptable to solve problems without fear” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 36).

In addition to welcoming failure, as Syed (2015) points out in his article about creativity, it is important to communicate the truth about innovative discoveries. Breakthroughs and inventions are not the products of instantaneous, lightning strike types of brilliant ideas, but rather the products of a rambling and often thorny path full of false starts, reconfigurings, flops, and gradual progress made through a succession of design cycles.

When failure is recognized as an essential part of making and learning, children will be more willing to expand their thinking, welcome imaginative ideas, and engage fully with the idea of multiple paths to success. Syed (2015) notes, “youngsters who are taught to think about failure in a more positive light not only become more creative, but more resilient, too. They regard their mess-ups not as reasons to give up, but as intriguing and educative. They engage with these failures, learn from them, and, by implication, develop new insights, and ever deeper curiosity” (para. 12).

The creativity, tenacity, and curiosity that can develop in children who inhabit a culture of learning that embraces failure will result in strong critical thinkers who are ready to seize all of the benefits of not only constructionist education methods, but any learning opportunity that they encounter.

Martinez, S. L. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Syed, M. (2015, November 14). Viewpoint: How creativity is helped by failure. BBC News Magazine. Retrieved from