Troubleshooting Failure

The end of semester brings a new urgency to the classroom, and the weight of worrying that you’ve not met expectations — fearing you’ve “failed” — can be burdensome for faculty and for students. But feelings of failure also invite us to reflect upon our pedagogy and our courses, and to extract valuable lessons that can enhance subsequent experiences in the classroom.

Do you want to develop methods to help students mitigate anxiety about succeeding? Are you looking for strategies to assess lessons or assignments that haven’t gone as planned?

Please join the Teaching and Learning Center for a workshop on “troubleshooting failure” where we’ll consider ways to incorporate and/or recast “failure” as a generative process of experimentation and learning for both teachers and students. We will explore practices of mindful pedagogy that invite self-reflection and community connectedness, help us work through frustration, and address the impact of stress on our bodies. We will also discuss how to create a culture of inquiry and constructive engagement in our classrooms that can mitigate feelings of failure. And, we’ll talk through how to incorporate failure as a pedagogical tool that can reveal new avenues of discovery and self-reflection for teachers and students.

This workshop was offered in Fall 2018 as an in-person workshop at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The workshop and materials were developed by Luis Henao Uribe and Lais Duarte.


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains outreach materials, workshop plans and  resources.

Materials Folder: Troubleshooting Failure Workshop

Workshop Plan

Introductions (10 min.)

Framing mindfulness on the classroom (5 min.): Mindfulness- Introduce concepts and principles.

  • The term derives from the Zen Buddhist concept “ sati” : “Memory of the Present”.
  • Mindfulness-Applications.
    • Buddhist meditation Vipassana Model
    • Buddhist meditation known as anapanasmrti Model
    • Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Model
  • Mindfulness-  Results
  • Mindfulness- Critiques.
  • Mindfulness in our classrooms- An experience.

Breathing exercises (5 min.)

Reflection and challenges about how to adapt mindfulness to our teaching practice (15 min.)

[Free write about the breathing exercise and sharing thoughts, concerns about implementing mindfulness in the classroom.]

Journaling (5 min.): Example of assignments that can help implement journaling in the classroom :

  1. The Positive Events Diary by Paul Carter (2016)
  2. The Emotional Dimension of your Learning Process Diary
  3. Learning Log
  4. The Confusion Diary by John Bean

Failure as a pedagogical tool – Creating a classroom culture of inquiry that validates confusion and the unknown. (5 min.)

Some concepts:

  • “Constructive failure”
  • Failure is defined in relation to a goal.
  • Ability vs Effort. + Strategy.
  • “Productive failure”
  • “Productive Failure (PF) is a learning design that entails the design of conditions for learners to persist in generating and exploring representations and solution methods (RSMs) for solving complex, novel problems.”

How do your class rewards “risk” and “experimentation”?  (15 min.) [Free write and share.]

Types of students “failure” (inviting or disabling student’s progress). (5 min.) [Discussion: What kind of “failure” could be invited to open avenues of thinking? When can it be negative (disabling, discouraging the student)?]

Shifting the focus from Performance vs. Knowledge; Progress vs Completion (10 min.)

Offering feedback to student’s work (15 min.)

Failing as an instructor (3 min.)

Open discussion [Open discussion about specific issues, challenges and experiences.]