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Failing to Learn

Failing to Learn explores the relationship between failure and learning in different fields and situations. 

About the author: Karen Vaughan is a Chief Researcher at NZCER and leads the Learning at Work research programme. Being of curious mind, she is an inveterate maker of mistakes and fails regularly. She is always learning.  

For this post, let’s assume that failure can have a positive, productive relationship with learning. Let’s explore what goes on when that potentially positive relationship is thwarted. If the possibility of failure is too awful to contemplate, using it strategically for learning is unthinkable. The strategy instead becomes one of avoiding failure at all costs.

Date posted: 16 March 2016

When people want to emphasise how important it is to succeed, or to get something right, they say “Failure is not an option”. Avoiding failure seems like a good idea because it’s so often a horrible experience - for us and sometimes also for anyone depending on our success. But in some fields of work, and in certain situations, failure actually is an option. 

Date posted: 8 December 2015

People in different fields of work – like GPs, carpenters, engineering technicians, and health and community support workers - have different relationships with the idea of failure and the making of mistakes. This has really struck me when doing research on learning in workplaces.

Date posted: 4 December 2015