CRUE Discussion Guide:
Experiential Learning, Student Voice, and Embracing Failure

In Diana Laufenberg’s TED talk, How to learn? From mistakes, she discusses three important elements to effective teaching:

  1. Experiential learning: the idea that experiential education facilitates effective and lasting learning experiences has been around for a long time, yet the focus of our educational system is often on testing and memorization.
  2. Student voice: Giving students the opportunity to be involved in their education improves their experiences at school, makes our education system more effective, and benefits the larger community.
  3. Embracing failure: studies have shown that we learn more from making mistakes than from getting answers correct on the first try.  Laufenberg highlights the problems with the “culture of one right answer” in today’s schools and how allowing students to fail creates a more productive learning environment.

While many schools have programs that put to use these elements, particularly experiential learning and student voice, often these programs are designed for students who are already doing well further perpetuating an inequitable learning environment.  It is important that schools and teachers create opportunities for all students to engage in experiential learning, have a voice in what is happening in their school and community, and to make mistakes and learn from them.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Where are these three elements present in your school or classroom?  Where are they missing?
  2. Who gets to participate in programs focused on experiential learning and student voice in your school and district?  What can you do to make these programs more inclusive?
  3. To what extent have you become part of the culture of one right answer?  What do you need to do help your students feel comfortable with failure and allow them to learn from it?



Experience and Education by John Dewey

SoundOut: Articles on Student Voice

The Experiential Learning Cycle

University of Colorado Denver Business School study shows failure better teacher than success

Incorporating Student Voice into Teaching Practice

CRUE Book Studies:

To learn more about culturally responsive education consider signing up for a CRUE Center Book Study like Crystal Kuykendall’s book From Rage to Hope: Strategies for Reclaiming Black and Hispanic Students. Earn 1.5 CEUs for just $75.  For more information visit or email us at

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