Teaching the Inevitable: Embracing a Pedagogy of Failure





failure, stigma, traditionally underrepresented students, anxiety, alternative grading schema


Failure is often taken as a given in higher education, as an inevitable part of learning new things. Yet, it remains a part of learning that students tend to fear, and faculty tend to neglect. As faculty, we do not always strategize with or leverage our students’ struggles and failures for improved learning. Instead, we hope that students learn from their mistakes and study harder or try harder the next time, because moving on with material in class is necessary to meet learning objectives. In this article, we outline several strategies for using failure advantageously for promoting student growth and learning, and to minimize the stigma of struggle in academia. We make concrete suggestions and outline strategies and resources for faculty to incorporate a “pedagogy of failure” into their work with students and we describe structural barriers to using failure strategically in higher education.


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Author Biographies

Lydia E. Eckstein, Allegheny College

Lydia E. Eckstein is an associate professor of psychology at Allegheny College (USA). Outside of her psychological work she has increasingly focused on teaching students about leveraging the whole range of the human experience for their own learning.   

Amelia B. Finaret, Allegheny College

Amelia B. Finaret is an associate professor of global health studies at Allegheny College (USA). Her work aims to reduce barriers to training and knowledge for learners around the world to use quantitative data effectively, efficiently, and ethically. 

Lisa B. Whitenack, Allegheny College

Lisa B. Whitenack is an associate professor of biology and geology at Allegheny College (USA). Her work focuses on creating a welcoming community and reducing barriers in kindergarten through undergraduate STEM classrooms.


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How to Cite

Eckstein, Lydia E., Amelia B. Finaret, and Lisa B. Whitenack. 2023. “Teaching the Inevitable: Embracing a Pedagogy of Failure”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 11 (May). https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.11.16.