The learning opportunities afforded by failing are great. Failing makes the experience much more memorable than having a plain sailing experience.
I still remember failing self-assessment questions during an online SCORM course many years ago. Unaccustomed as I was to failing things, it stung and certainly took me down a few rungs and I did actually go back and study the material more thoroughly and learnt more. In the end I was grateful, since the course was not free (and I had paid for it myself) and I got more value out of it.
Being an online course, the failure was both private and safe and after the initial sting (I think I even looked up to see that no-one had seen), I realised that the failure had really woken me up and had even made me more respectful of the level of the course materials. It was a proper online course of learning written by pros, and not some mickey mouse course that anyone could breeze through.
During many years of course productions, we have conducted a fair few formative user tests. During some of these tests, it was obvious that some of the test people thought it uncomfortable to not ace the knowledge test questions or final exam (whichever the case may have been). These were almost always employees at larger corporations.
Back then I had neither the opportunity or the experience to ask more in-depth follow up questions regarding their views on personal, online or job related failure.
I also think that like me, they were glad that no-one (of any consequence) had witnessed the apparent failure. It wasn’t registered in the LMS as an attempt and their manager and colleagues wouldn’t have to know.
Failure shouldn’t be in the form of a trick question, designed solely to trip learners up. If it happens, then it must be as a result of a properly challenging scenario or series of questions. If it must be tracked, let the LMS record the highest score only.
Because while failure in private may be a catalyst for learning, failure in public may just lead to humiliation. And humiliating people doesn’t make the world a better place.
How about you? Do you allow yourself to fail? More importantly, does the culture at work allow you to learn in public?