One of the most common roadblocks to optimal learning is children's fear of failure. They are afraid that if they participate or ask certain questions, they will be teased or considered "not smart." Therefore, instead of taking that risk, students may move into survival mode and focus more on protecting themselves from humiliation rather than actively participating, engaging with others and learning. Unfortunately, one negative learning experience may create the fear-of-failure cycle.

Students respond best in a secure educational environment where they can learn and grow from their mistakes. They will have more "a-ha" moments, can identify new goals and make concrete plans to improve next time. Here are a few ways that educators can support learners and prevent the fear of failure:

  • Instill appreciation of effort. Reassure students that trying is important. Reinforcing a supportive approach helps students to see the program as a safe haven where errors are considered opportunities to learn.
  • Declare your program a judgement-free zone. Emphasize respect, courtesy and the Golden Rule. Enforce consequences for reported taunting, teasing and name-calling. Reiterate that there are no "dumb" questions and each student can contribute to the learning experience.
  • Build community. Incorporate activities and strategies that increase interaction and build rapport among students. Encourage them to share their unique stories and ideas. This will hep students to become more comfortable with one another.
  • Encourage collaboration and group work. Group activities allow children to safely make errors in conjunction with their peers, which in return allow them to learn from one another.

The fear of failure hinders children's motivation to learn. By creating a safe learning environment, educators can help to foster learning and improve student achievement.