Early failure supports future learning

In this month’s interesting read study, an interdisciplinary team at UBC took a different approach to teaching cell-biology topics. Students first struggled to solve complex problems, which primed them to learn the expert solution via a series of interactive activities – activating prior knowledge, then sifting through the available information, to arrive at a solution. This approach, termed Productive Failure, led to significant benefits compared with the more conventional instruction.

The Productive Failure approach was effective especially among lower performing students, for whom benefits in learning persisted also in the final course exam. These results suggest that applying Productive Failure in higher education science courses may support all learners while narrowing the achievement gap.

Chowrira, S.G., Smith, K.M., Dubois, P.J., Roll, I. (2019). DIY productive failure: boosting performance in a large undergraduate biology course. npj Science of Learning volume 4, Article number: 1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-019-0040-6

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