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

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

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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 self-identified 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.

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2018