Martin Leigh

Rethinking failure as a key part of learning


Teachers try to pitch content just beyond a student’s ability, as research suggests that a little failure is good for learning. But what happens when your lessons are far beyond a pupil’s capability? You get a whole new insight into teaching and learning, says Martin Leigh

Rethinking failure as a key part of learning

It all started with a study in the journal Nature Communications. It suggested that teachers were right all along.

Our professional instinct is that pupils succeed best when we teach at a level that is just one step beyond the knowledge with which they are comfortable. Ideally, we want the work we set to be a little difficult, engagingly hard, but not impossibly so. A little failure should be expected.

Scientists at the University of Arizona took that instinct and tested it. By studying machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that improves through experience – which, for all ...

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