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Top Tip - Celebrating Failures, or Magnificent Things That Didn’t Quite Work

Submitted by Education on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 17:20

Each term we invite one of our Artist Educators to share a top tip or short activity that can be taken into the classroom. This term's top tip comes from Design Educator Lea Jagendorf who recently tried this out with 40 Primary teachers as part of a Bow Arts INSET session.

One area of my education work is running workshops introducing the method of Fixperts, a learning programme that challenges young people to use their imagination and skills to create ingenious solutions to everyday problems. In these sessions students are challenged to perform simple tasks with a restriction to their hands, arms or fingers, and then work in teams to create an object that would help overcome the difficulties they’ve encountered. With these restrictions, everyday actions such as buttoning a shirt, turning pages of a newspaper or slicing a bagel in two become challenging and often impossible, turning the students in to the actual users they are required to design for.

The process involves lots of trial and error, which is essential to creating a solution that really works. It starts with experiencing and understanding what the difficulty is, discussing and sketching possible ideas, making quick models of proposed solutions, and then testing these, and often discovering that an idea that seemed great doesn’t quite work. Finally, students need to identify what can be improved and how this could be done, and repeat the process till they’re happy their solution works.

The success of any creative process depends on students being comfortable with taking risks and accepting that things will often not turn out the way they planned or hoped they would. If you know how to fail, you are half way to success!

My tip: Make some time at the end of a session to ask students to share things that didn’t work for them today. Create a warm and supportive environment for this; often humor, applause and fun are a great way to make this something everyone wants to contribute to. The aim is to make everyone feel comfortable to share their work, whether they deem it successful or not, with a shared understanding that getting it wrong is a welcome part of the process. In a Fixperts session this typically involves lots of crazy ideas (sometimes potentially hazardous!), mutilated bagels and a whole load of masking tape!