This mixed methods study examines perspectives on failure in the classroom by elementary teachers new to teaching engineering. The study participants included 254 teachers in third, fourth, and fifth grade who responded to survey questions about failure, as well as a subset of 38 of those teachers who participated in interviews about failure. The study first examines the literature about failure in the contexts of engineering and education. Failure is positioned as largely normative and expected in engineering, whereas in education, learning and failure have a more tenuous relationship. Identity, failure avoidance, failure as part of the learning process, growth and fixed mindset, resilience, perseverance, and grit are addressed in a discussion of failure and education. Quantitative and qualitative research methods were utilized to examine how participants: reacted to the words failure or fail, reported allowing students to fail or revise their work, considered how failure should be avoided in education, considered how failure may be construed as a learning experience, and reported using the words failure or fail in their classrooms. Conclusions from the study include that: failure has a largely negative connotation within education and by teachers, which influences how teachers use the words fail and failure and create failure experiences for their students; many teachers practice resilience and perseverance and encourage similar practices in their students with respect to mistakes in the classroom, which serves as a helpful yet somewhat inaccurate analogue for failure in engineering design; and there is evidence that many teachers have adopted a growth mindset and encourage this mindset in their classrooms – however, there are some challenges to a true adoption of this mindset by teachers.



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