The Failure to Let Kids Fail, and How Gaming Can Help

Posted by | October 28, 2013 | Tips for Parents | 3 Comments

One of the many shortcomings of an education based on standardized testing is that it encourages students to fear being wrong. Multiple-choice tests don’t allow originality or give credit for creativity. “There’s a premium on knowing the right answer, being able to fill in the correct oval on a test,” explains Leah Hager Cohen, author of “I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance (Except When You Shouldn’t).” In education, the ability to easily confess ignorance goes hand-in-hand with the freedom to try something new. In other words, when kids can fail without fear of judgment, they are learning more creatively, more energetically, and more successfully.

Despite the power of failure to motivate learning, our school system demands constant success. “It’s almost a truism that people say you can learn from your mistakes,” says Drew Davidson, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. “But in schools, it seems they want the antithesis: Success, success, success.”

Luckily, there’s a solution. What better way to encourage positive experimental mentality than with video games? If you’ve played many video games, you know that winning instantly is boring. Struggling to reach your goal, however, encourages diligence, creativity, and fun. Kathleen Costanza from the Pittsburgh Kids + Creativity Network explains games “provide a unique way for students to fail while learning without major repercussions.” Games can encourage creative thinking techniques simply by putting the goal slightly out of reach, and giving the player multiple (or infinite) attempts to reach it. The experimental learning happens naturally.

Nobody is right 100% of the time, and the sooner we start teaching that to our kids, the better.

Courtney Holmes

About Courtney Holmes

Courtney is Pixelkin's Associate Managing Editor. While working with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, she mentored young girls in teamwork, leadership, personal responsibility, and safety. Today, she spends her time studying adolescent development and using literary analysis techniques to examine video games.