One of the greatest hindrances to a student’s active learning can be fear of failure: fear of looking silly or stupid in front of a classmate or faculty member, or fear of not getting a good grade on a project. Students have sometimes been taught that they need to be perfect, or as close to perfect as possible, to
be rewarded. Students afraid of failure choose not to take risks; they might even choose not to turn work in because it isn’t as good as they think it should be. However, I think that there are things more important than perfection: curiosity, risk taking, persistence, integrity, and self-awareness. Failure can even be an important part of learning. Edward Burger argues that “individuals need to embrace the realization that taking risks and failing are often the essential moves necessary to bring clarity, understanding, and innovation.” Rejecting the fear of failure, he writes, can result in “a mind enlivened by curiosity and the intellectual audacity to take risks and create new ideas, a mind that sees a world of unlimited possibilities.”
For this reason, 5% of your grade will be dedicated to “quality of failure.” At the end of the semester, you will write a reflection in which you discuss the quality of your failure over with regards to this class. You will be graded not on how much you failed, but how you handled any failures. Were you willing to challenge yourself to take risks that might result in failure? Were you aware of when you failed, and did you refuse to give up in the face of failure? Did you take responsibility for your failures? Did you find ways to use your failure to create something new and interesting? Have you grown from your failures?