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Habits of Mind: Designing Courses for Student Success


Julia M. Gossard & Chris Babits


Utah State University

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


In response to a colleague’s dismay over failing to successfully design their invention, Thomas Edison famously replied that their efforts were not a failure, but an opportunity to learn. Edison said:

I recall that after we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, one of my associates, after we had conducted the crowning experiment and it had proved a failure, expressed discouragement and disgust over our having failed “to find out anything.” I cheerily assured him that we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of. (Forbes, 1921)

What Edison understood was the role that failure played in his ultimate success. Failure as a means to increase understanding is a powerful tool. Just as Edison harnessed failure to be a successful inventor, students can learn from failure to be successful learners. As teachers, we can facilitate this process through course design. By providing examples from two Criminal Justice courses, this chapter focuses on how students can learn from their failures.


PDF version 2 uploaded 23-12-06.