No, I don't mean failing classes. I'm talking about providing a safe environment in your class where students can try things, experiment, explore, without fear of penalty (such as a grade). Did you write an elegant essay the first time you picked up a pen? Was your first research experiment an unqualified success? As brilliant as you undoubtedly are, I doubt it. It takes
time to learn and develop a skill. It also takes time for students to tackle an open-ended problem--they must learn how to think through possible options, work with others to bounce ideas around, and try a solution. It won't always work, just like in the real world, and they must be allowed, even encouraged, to step out and try things without being graded every step of the way. Quincy Jones was once asked how he maintained his continuous string of success in spite of some failures along the way--his response was to keep pushing forward, to "cherish failure--if you're afraid of getting an A, you'll get an F." Roger Schank, well-known cognitive scientist who has been a strong voice for re-thinking education, states that people need to learn gumption and a stick-to-it attitude--to make mistakes and keep trying again until they get it. Lots of famous individuals in history would attest to this--Lincoln, Churchill, Hershey...the list goes on. So, set up your class to provide students with lots of opportunities to practice and refine the skills you are teaching them--before they get a grade.