Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program


Department or Program Chair

Elizabeth Truesdell PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

Second Reader

Suresh Appavoo EdD


Teachers strive to create a safe learning environment where students can learn from their mistakes and/or failures. Even though teachers are creating safe spaces for learning, many students will not engage in activities that might be challenging to the point of that students experiencing failure. The purpose of this qualitative action research study is to examine what perceptions students have about failure in order to help teachers find non-material incentives or reward structures to help give students self-worth. The research method involved the collection of data through surveys, a guided research project about the failures of famous people and an accompanying study guide for students to fill out, researcher facilitated discussions, and classroom observations.

This study was conducted at a suburban, predominately homogeneous, and middle-class K-6 grade public school in Northern California. The participants in the study were 22 students from a 6th grade class, ages 11-12.

The primary findings suggest that students have an easier time understandings their own failures in social engagements. Students are able to vocalize cultural phrases like: You learn from your mistakes, but it can be hard to transfer those into action when failure happens. The findings presented in this study have the potential benefit of adding to the conversation surrounding failure in schools.