Academic journal article Teaching Science

A Japanese Paper: Failing Is an Opportunity for Learning

Academic journal article Teaching Science

A Japanese Paper: Failing Is an Opportunity for Learning

Article excerpt


The Australian Science Teachers Association offers a number of professional development programs, resources and opportunities for Australian science teachers. Perhaps our most innovative international professional development program is the Science Teachers Exchange--Japan. This program has been a part of ASTA's annual program of teacher professional development opportunities for seven years now.

The continuation of this program is thanks to our wonderful sponsors, and the ongoing relationship with the Sony Education Foundation and the Sony Science Teachers Association of Japan. The program is twofold, and offers Australian and Japanese teachers an opportunity to travel to the corresponding country, allowing the teachers to grow in their knowledge of the culture and teaching practices of that country, as well as the possibility to develop national and international networks.

The following article was written by Mr Takeshi Tsuji, an elementary teacher from Tokyo, who participated in the 2017 Exchange program to Australia. As part of this program, Mr Tsuji visited Mudgeeraba Creek State School on the Gold Coast, where he had the opportunity to observe a fifth grade STEM lesson taught by STEM science teacher Ms Megan Hayes, and later teach a lesson to the same class. On entering Ms Hayes' classroom, what immediately caught Mr Tsuji's attention was a large poster with the word 'FAIL' on it; an acronym standing for 'First Attempt In Learning'. The following [Unedited] translation of an article--taken from a Japanese equivalent to Teaching Science--takes on this theme of how students face failure and how teachers can deepen classroom learning with this acronym in mind.

Special Feature (:) How to Face Failure

Lessons Deepened and Learning Learned by Students Facing Failure

When I was in Australia for an educational exchange program, I found this sign on the wall of the school's classroom. It was widely written "FAIL = First Attempt in Learning". It translates to "failure = first step in learning", meaning that learning starts from failure. If you take a challenge, you may make mistakes, and making mistakes is a proof that you have challenged for success. Learning in science changes greatly depending on how the students face the failure and how the teacher has the student face the failure. Let me use a scene in the 5th grade elementary school "Pendulum regularity" class as an example. In an experiment to see if the weight of the weight affects the time for the pendulum to make a single reciprocation, the results were different for only one group. Each time the weight was increased from 10 g to 20 g and 30 g, the time for one round trip was slightly increased. The other group's weight increase does not change the time of one round trip. The students say, "We've got wrong results from our experiments."

How should teachers face students in such situations? In the class, the teacher reconfirmed how the students of the group increased the weight and the way they conducted the experiment with the whole class. Then, when increasing the weight, the group pulled too much the string trying to fix it, and noticed that the string became longer at 30 g. The students were able to think about the result of the group using the knowledge of the change in time of one round trip due to the length of the pendulum, which is a learned item.

When the students are solving problems in science classes, they go back and forth through the process and try to approach an answer that the group can accept. If the results are not good, they will consider whether there is a problem in the experimental skills or in the experimental method itself. Only then will it lead to revisiting the validity of their experiments.

Nowadays, I feel that there are many classes where teachers have prepared an experiment or an observation so carefully that the students do not fail and that they can use time effectively. …

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