Reflect on Learning from Failure (Framework)

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Reflect on Learning from Failure (Framework)


We want students to understand how much they learn from their failures during the course instead of getting frustrated over it.

This framework can potentially be integrated for any of the courses using FOSS continuously.

After successfully completing this activity, the learner should be able to:

Reflect on their progress in a project or course.

Process Skills




Our framework is motivated by the following:

  • Students will get critiqued in the world they'll enter into. They need to learn how to deal with that in a constructive way.
  • Students often presume others are doing better than them.
  • Students associate being “productively lost” with failure.
  • Underrepresented groups in CS can be challenged by a lack of confidence (including, but not limited to issues of stereotype threat).


Directions & deliverables


Extremely short "Tweet-sized", scheduled, in-class reflections asking the student to step out of their current activity, think about their current mindset, then return to the activity.

  • Regular interval during class, e.g. every 30 minutes in class
  • There is a social aspect to sharing them as tangible artifacts that help students step out of the technical details to see the social skills for a moment. Color-coded notes/notecards could be used for various categories (technical, communication, big picture, etc.)
  • Some ways to think about implementing micro-reflections:
    • Commit messages where students state their current stage of thought/problem-solving process, snapshot of where they’re at. If collecting them in a different place is preferred, a shared doc is an option.
    • Index cards / Post-its if computers aren’t in use (and public, can optionally be categorized), but would have to be written up / redistributed / photographed if they are supposed to be available to the students for macro reflections.


(weekly; outside of class) - longer reflections (e.g., 2-3 paragraphs) with prompted topics.

  • Some ways to think about implementing mini-reflections:
    • Summarization of micro-reflections
    • Blog
    • Wiki
  • Prompt a different category every week: soft skills, technical aspect, communication, organization

Final/macro/meta Reflections

(1-3 at milestones/checkpoints; outside of class) - Summative reflection, asking the students to re-explore their process from a previous period/project.

  • Suggested milestones: start of the semester (survey), middle of semester (survey), end of semester (survey and essay)
  • Some ways to think about implementing Final/macro/meta Reflections (more than one may be appropriate):
    • Surveys: use existing FOSS surveys and maybe add a couple of questions
    • Short essay with reflection at the end (using their micro reflections) and the prompt to reflect on how they learned from failure.

Progress visualization over an academic term...

  • How can we (help students) visualize progress? Charting on the following fronts:
  • Let students set a goal - may be unrealistic but they engage more if they can contribute creatively
  • Level of frustration, just for giggles, hoping it goes down over the semester ;)
  • Learning goals / objectives (for the course, as determined by instructor)
  • Data collection via Moodle/BlackBoard/whatever your course is already using

Notes for Instructors

The remaining sections of this document are intended for the instructor. They are not part of the learning activity that would be given to students.


How will the activity be graded? The larger the reflection, the more weight it gets assigned.

  • The micro reflections are not graded on content, just on process (which basically means whether students did them or not).
  • The mini reflections can be graded using questions below.
  • The macro reflection can be graded using same and further questions.
  • The data tracking is graded on process - did they submit their numbers or not.

How will learning will be measured? Ideally, there should be a way to measure each of the objectives described above.

How will feedback to the student be determined?

Include sample assessment questions/rubrics. Feel free to indicate that the activity itself is not graded, however it would be helpful to include any questions that might be used at a later date to interpret learning, for example on a quiz or exam.

The form of the assessment is expected to vary by assignment. One possible format is the table:

Criteria Level 1 (fail) Level 2 (pass) Level 3 (good) Level 4 (exceptional)
How well did they follow the prompt on what to write about? X
Did they describe their observations well? X X
Did they draw conclusions from their observations? X X X
Did they conclude lessons learned? X X X X


What should the instructor know before using this activity?

What are some likely difficulties that an instructor may encounter using this activity?

Area & Unit(s)

Soft skills: Reflection (not in ACM but it's the topic)


Carrying out the writing tasks is easy, doing a good reflection is medium.

Estimated Time
to Complete

Micro: 30 seconds, Mini: 10-30 minutes, Macro: 2 hours

Environment /

Internet access if done on blog.


Birgit Penzenstadler, Emily Lovell, Mario Nakazawa, Scott Heggen, Matt Jadud


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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Suggestions for Open Source Community

This framework seems to be more about reflection in any course context where students can fail than specifically OSS. We are not sure what suggestions may arise from that for the open source community.

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