NIE Study: Resilient students see failure as a stepping stone

A study completed by Dr Imelda Caleon, a research scientist at the National Institute of Education, found that students who are initially weak in their studies but manage to improve have a few common traits: they are clear-headed enough to make plans, manage their emotions, and see failure as a challenge or a stepping stone. They are also reported as having better relationships with teachers who provide consistent academic and socio-emotional support.

Dr Caleon and her team gave out standardised English language and mathematics tests at the end of each year to about 1,300 students from 22 secondary schools over a three-year period. All of them came from the Normal (Academic) or the Normal (Technical) classes. Dr Caleon said that both groups perceive failure differently. Those in the resilient group usually “see failure as a turning point, a wake-up call. They tend to be aware of why they fail. They cry, but they try to analyse their mistakes and then craft some strategies to do better”. In comparison, less resilient students are more ambivalent and “don’t seem to feel sad or happy… most don’t even attempt to find out why they fail”.

Dr Caleon also shared that it is important for students to know that “failure is not the end – it is an opportunity to learn to do better”. Educators agreed with her views, saying that teachers play a big role in students regaining confidence, especially when family support is lacking.

In all my years of teaching, I have come across many different kinds of students. What I find from my observations echo Dr Caleon’s views that the most important difference between failure and success is attitude. The students who have a better attitude, tend to take things in their stride and continue to strive for success. As educators, there is definitely much that we can do to help students overcome failures and also help weaker students find their confidence as well.

If you want to read more about Dr Caleon’s insightful study, click the following link:

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