Fast Fail, Learn Faster

Justin Hickey , December 2022

Fast Fail Learn Faster

So much attention has been on New Zealand's Education system of late and I have previously written about the need for change. I’ve talked about the ‘Why’; Poor achievement data, poor attendance, the need to align the values and aspirations of stakeholders in our learning communities. Knowing our ‘Why;’ is imperative. It becomes our flag post, our compass and it provides our direction as we naturally, at times, deviate from it or lose our way.

But knowing the ‘How’ is equally important, as it provides us with the tools to put our ‘why’ into action. There will naturally be a variety of ‘tools’ or processes that show us ‘how’ to transform and disrupt our education system, the current objective coming out of the Ministry of Education. One tool that I am fond of and one I believe fits well with our ‘Why’, is the “Fast Fail, Learn Faster” approach.

This approach became the mantra of software engineering and computer innovation during the early days of Silicon Valley and its early use was designed to learn fast and improve fast.

With an education system in desperate need to ‘catch up’ with the needs, values and aspirations of the people it serves, ‘Fast Fail, Learn Fast’ seems to me to be an ideal tool. Done well, it allows school leaders, teaching teams and individual teachers the freedom and autonomy to try ideas that are focussed on meaningful and purposeful change for their students. This approach would be an ideal tool for example, if your school was developing its Local Curriculum.

By engaging with and collecting the voice of your learning community, schools could action the common themes that come from that, using a ‘Fast Fail, Learn Fast approach. Despite seeming disruptive, this approach allows school leaders, teaching teams and individual teachers to make choices, see what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly. This approach not only allows for ideas that work to be refined and developed, but in the face of failure, it allows those involved to quickly regroup and re-energise by reconnecting back with the purpose of the change (Nawson,2020). 

With a clear need to disrupt and transform the status quo in education, maybe it’s time for a disruptive and transformative approach to do it with.

Fast fail, Learn Faster


Nawson, S. (2020. October 12). Act Fast, Fail Fast, Learn Fast? Science says we learn faster when we are free to choose.