Designing for Productive Persistence After Failure in Education
Cathy Tran

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Irvine

Primary Discipline

Educational Psychology
My dissertation explores how to design digital learning environments that embrace failure and the deliberation and experimentation that learners undergo to learn from that failure. A challenge that arises for designers of learning environments is how to promote the perception that incidents of failure are opportunities for learning rather than simply markers of inability in learners. My research tackles this issue in two projects that bridge prior work done in academic motivation, emotions, cognition, and game design. Games create artificial tests in which players can fail, providing a schema in which challenge and confusion are positive attributes that inspire persistent effort. In applying game design elements to academic learning, an understanding of the reasons for persistence or lack thereof is crucial. Deep and continuous learning does not depend only on amount of persistence but also reasons for persistence. For example, learners can be motivated by their goals for content mastery, personal progress, and/or outperforming others?each of which has different learning implications. Using science and math games, I identify design features that support and hinder the pursuit of different types of goals by analyzing questionnaires, interviews, and videos of learner gameplay. Through experiments that induce confusion from failure, I assess whether displaying learners? errors that were made with high confidence of correctness can promote persistence and deeper, conceptual understanding of the material. This work highlights the underlying elements that promote persistence in games and identifies promising avenues and challenges to extending this knowledge to more formal learning environments.
About Cathy Tran

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