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The Power of Failure and the Role of Corrective Feedback


October 30, 2019



Corrective feedback

Failure is often seen as the opposite of success, as it in itself means that something was NOT done. However, in learning, failure doesn’t always have to be a negative or bad occurrence.

You see, failure is perhaps one of the best learning tools of all, because it teaches learners that things will not always go as they planned, and that they’ll have to keep moving forward despite the odds. Failure is not a full stop, but rather a comma, not the end of the journey, but a milestone. There is no growth without failure, and no person who hasn’t or won’t fail sometime, somewhere in their lives. What L&D managers and professionals should do is help learners harness the power of failure, and this can only happen if they understand the following points.

Tips On Harnessing The Power Of Failure

  1. Failure will come, but you must accept it and move on, while making sure the circumstances of that failure are not repeated again.
  2. Do not fear failure, as doing so will turn you into a stunted learner, with no spirit of creativity, experimentation, exploration or innovation. Every failure at least teaches you a way how NOT to do things.
  3. Learning is a journey, not a destination you reach. Because the only way learning actually takes place is experience, success and failure are both experiences, and are both equally important in order to make a full-rounded learner of any individual. No experience ever goes to waste.
  4. Although failure will happen, it is not desirable. There are usually warning signs before something fails, and you must learn to pay heed to those signs. Correct small mistakes before they snowball into a big failure.
  5. Learn from the mistakes of others, and don’t be shy or fearful of sharing your failures with your peers. Your failure may help them avert their own.

Although understanding the above mentioned tips will help your learners understand and overcome failure, they are at times, not enough. There is something else L&D professionals need to do to ensure learners take failures in stride and come out even more productive, and that is corrective feedback. Nowadays, most learning and development of employees takes place through digital learning, and that is where L&D professionals must embed corrective feedback. Corrective feedback provides remediation to mistakes learners make and advances their learning.

How To Properly Implement Corrective Feedback

When designing digital learning courses, L&D professionals must ensure that the feedback they give to the learner’s within the course must be composed of the following parts:

  1. Acknowledging the learner’s response: The learner must immediately be told whether their response to a question or activity was correct or incorrect. A simple “That’s correct!” or “Sorry, that’s incorrect.” will suffice.
  2. Stating the correct response: It is important that when the learner submits an incorrect response that they be told immediately of the correct one. Thus, the words “Sorry, that’s incorrect.” should be accompanied with the statement – “The correct answer is Option C (for example).”
  3. Repeating the correct response: Repetition is very important when it comes to reinforcing information in a learner’s brain. Thus, when the learner responds incorrectly to a question, tell them the answer is incorrect, tell them the correct answer and repeat the correct answer. For example, “Sorry, that’s incorrect. The correct answer is Option C – Hydrogen Sulphide smells like rotten eggs.”
  4. Explaining the correct response: In order to fully educate learners about their mistakes, they must also be told why their response was incorrect, and why the correct response in considered correct. For example – “Sorry, that’s incorrect. The correct answer is Option C – Hydrogen Sulphide smells like rotten eggs. Hydrogen sulphide is often associated with the smell of rotten eggs or sewage because it is the gas which is released upon the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. Thus, when you smell any rotting organic matter, what you’re actually smelling is hydrogen sulphide.”

Use corrective feedback in your digital learning courses to better educate your learners, and help them understand the power of failure. This will go a long way in developing them into ever-growing, productive members of the organization.


Guest Author Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown is a senior technical editor and writer that has worked in the education and technology sectors for two decades. Their background experience includes curriculum development and course book creation.

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