Failure as an active agent in the development of creative and inventive mindsets | MIT J-WEL

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Failure as an active agent in the development of creative and inventive mindsets

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This study explores the ways in which high school student inventors define the terms failure and learning from failure as well as what they learn about creative failure while inventing that may be applicable to other contexts. A 14-year-old grants program for high school inventors served as the site of study. Findings from this study make visible participants’ emic understandings of creative failure. Discourse analysis revealed students’ preference for use of high points and low points to characterize creative failure as a part of a larger process of inventing instead of the notion of failure as an end point. This finding demonstrated student take-up of one of several ways of thinking as an inventor. It also added the transdisciplinary work of invention to previous studies in other disciplines such as mathematics in which creative failure was used by educators and taken up by students as a productive part of learning. This study goes a step further by uncovering ways two inventors selected as telling cases (Mitchell, 1984) describe their understandings of how what was learned from failure may transfer to other experiences. The epistemological and ontological frames guiding this study, and the interactional ethnographic methods used to analyze interview data, offer an approach to assess ways of thinking among individual students as well as the collective group of participants. Findings frame the change(s) in thinking about creative failure in words used by students to describe their understandings, as they reflect on their personal experiences to invent solutions to real-world problems.

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