This weekend, Cathy, Marci, and I were lucky enough to present our ILP at the American Association of School Librarian’s National Conference in Hartford, CT. Tony Wagner, the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, was the speaker at the Opening General Session on Thursday and delivered a powerful message centered around his seven survival skills. During his discussion on innovation, he talked about the importance of failure as a learning tool. Our schools have been built on a system of rewards and punishments in the form of grades, and failure, unfortunately, is too often an option that doesn’t lead anywhere. When a student fails an assignment, they move on to the next one, without the opportunity to learn from the previous experience.
But in order for students to become adaptive and innovative, they need to attempt skills and be allowed to mess up, without repercussions that will stunt their natural curiosity and ambition; it is from these mistakes that they will learn how to overcome their frustrations in order to problem solve. As creator of the ILP, I know that the plan lets students do that multiple times for each unit. Students attempt their standards three times, receiving feedback each time, from peers, teachers, or librarians. Troy, a former student of Cathy’s, shared that, “I’m not afraid that if I do something that I know they won’t necessarily approve of, it’s not gonna be an immediate shutdown. [The teachers] will take their time and look at it and listen to what I have to say.” By allowing them the opportunity to take risks in their thinking, they gain the confidence to explore and express their own ideas and explore their strengths and weaknesses.
Even when students get to the end of the unit, they can still improve for the next unit. If a student still needs to master a skill, they can choose to reattempt that standard in the next unit. Because students are experiencing the ILP multiple times in a course, they are also able to use their reflections and “So What?” to improve for the next unit. This creates comfort in a process that might otherwise be overwhelming.