In Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning author Jose Antonio Bowen states that “video games are really just a series of tests, but unlike most college tests they are designed to be intrinsically motivating” (p. 97).
Bowen supports this notion by citing research that “players and students alike are more motivated by tests that are pleasantly frustrating (Gee, 2004) or moderately challenging (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002)” (p. 97).
The growth and popularity of the gaming industry supports the fact that individuals are content with the concept of failure in the form of “pleasant frustration”.
My initial reaction to this is that humans (students) could never be motivated by failure. Failure is a negative experience. It is embarrassing, demotivating, and hurtful. Perhaps even more so for an adult learner who has factors such as self esteem on the line.
A positive educational experience for a student is one where they succeed and pass the course with an excellent grade. No room for failure in this equation…or, is there?
In reading Chapter 4 of Teaching Naked, which outlines how educational experiences should be designed more like video games, the concept of “pleasant frustration” is discussed in several scenarios. “It is precisely the combination of challenging engagement and low consequences for failure that has proved so potent in the video game industry. If games do not provide enough pleasant frustration and positive feedback, they do not succeed in the marketplace” (Bowen, p. 94).
And, this is where my opinion began to change and learning occurred for me. Perhaps breezing through a course isn’t the only road to a great educational experience? Perhaps providing room for a little “pleasant frustration” in a supportive learning environment where students are treated with respect and genuine caring, and feel safe enough to put themselves out on a limb, even fail, is a good thing?
The more I reflect on this topic, the more I realize how motivated and driving failure can be.
We’ve all heard of famous failures including the time Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a TV reporter because she was unfit for TV. In her Famous Failures series Winfrey has been quoted as saying “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried something new.”
I’ve always approached teaching from the prospective of ensuring my students succeed, and have never intentionally provided opportunities for failure as a learning experience. I now see that there may be some value in having students fall and helping them up. In the process, they will learn from their errors, thus, maximizing learning and providing solid evidence of growth.
“Bain (2004) came to the same conclusion: The best teachers focus on challenging students in a positive environment where failure is tolerated” (Bowen, p. 93). In a day-and-age where perfection is everywhere and people are constantly being judged and measured (by themselves and others) the premise of failure or not meeting expectations is looked upon so negatively.
We can create a positive environment where failure/delayed success is explored and encouraged by implementing Chickering and Gamson’s “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Bowen, p. 85) including providing:
- Options for contact between students and instructors
- Opportunities for cooperation and reciprocity among students
- Active learning activities
- Prompt feedback
- Emphasis for time on tasks
- Communication on high expectations
- Respect for diverse ways of learning.
As instructors, we must embrace the teachings of video games which provide options for failure in the form of pleasant frustrations that, keep ones dignity and motivation in tact and, encourage students to continue towards their ultimate goal.
Bowen, Jose. Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint, 2012. Print
Stories of World’s Famous Failures Who Became Extremely Successful (Photos) – MUST READ – African Spotlight.” African Spotlight. 3 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.