Why failure is a necessary part of learning

A trainer’s job isn’t about making the subject matter easy to learn.

Mistaken attempts to protect adult learners’ self-esteem by presenting all learning as simple, easy and fun is actually hindering effective learning. Learning complex subject matter can be challenging and time-consuming. But by trying to erase the subtle complexities of the subject matter, and water it down to something easy-to-present and learn, instructional designers are depriving learners of a valuable experience called failure.

Instructional designers can use a variety of strategies to chunk up, reinforce and practice complex subject matter, but avoiding failure should never be the goal. For workplace training, gaining the buy-in of management is valuable to providing a supportive learning environment that encourages challenge, where training sessions are incubators for experimentation, and where failure is an accepted part of learning.