I recently had a conversation with my student teacher regarding his intended lab experience for the week. He is working from Biology Rocks Ed2.1, but, of course, it is designed to be personalized for each teacher and he is making decisions regarding how his implementation will look. During our conversation, he expressed some concern regarding whether or not the lab would “work.”
I think I’m having some impact on his view of inquiry learning, because after he expressed some of his fears he had a moment of calm. He said that if the students’ experiments didn’t conform to exactly what an ideal outcome would be, he could work through some error analysis with them. They could discuss their expectations and the justification they have for those expectations. They could analyze their experimental design to identify flaws in their assumptions and variable control.
His ultimate conclusion was that a failed experiment would still be a highly valuable learning experience. It was a liberating realization because it provided a license for him to take risks as an educator designing an exploration. This was an important moment for him because that risk-taking attitude is something the students will see and internalize. If he is unafraid of making mistakes, performing revisions, and ultimately learning from the failures, then the students will be unafraid as well.
Success is for the bold, students and teachers alike. Some days, success is born of failure.