FAQs for Schools

You will find here a series of frequently asked questions by teachers regarding the use and benefits of the Productive Failure (PF) learning design. If you have a question that is not addressed in our questions, please feel free to write to me at manu.kapur@nie.edu.sg.

While most of the questions below apply to teachers in most educational settings, some may be more relevant to those in Singapore. Nonetheless, if you are a teacher and have a question that is not addressed here, please feel free to write to me.

I. Getting Started with PF

1. I am/ My school is interested in incorporating PF in my class(es). How should I/we get started? (+)

Please contact me directly. Based on your school’s needs, we will determine how PF can be incorporated in your school.

2. Once we made contact with you on our interest (see Question I.1), what should I/we be expecting? (+)

Typically, either you will want to (i) implement a PF unit, (ii) design a PF unit, or both.

  • For Mathematics teachers in Singapore who are only interested in implementing an existing PF unit, you will receive a package comprising the PF complex problem and materials for facilitation and consolidation. You can expect undergoing professional development sessions that build your necessary content and pedagogical content knowledge necessary for implementing the topics. More information and questions on implementing a PF unit can be found in Section II below.
  • For Mathematics teachers in Singapore who are interested in designing a new PF unit, we can work with you to support your design efforts. More information and questions on designing a PF unit can be found in Section II below.

For Singapore non-Mathematics teachers and teachers based overseas who are interested to incorporate PF into your classrooms, we will try our very best to provide you with the relevant resources to help you in your endeavours.

II. Implementing a PF Unit

1. What PF units are available for implementation at present? (+)

Currently, all the PF units that are available for implementation are in mathematics. For primary level, we have three topics: Symmetry, Fractions, and Area and Perimeter. For secondary level, we have four topics: Average Speed, Standard Deviation, Central Tendency, and Coordinate Geometry. For Pre-University/Junior College level, we have three topics: Normalization, Hypothesis Testing, and Correlation and Regression. We are currently working with the Singapore Ministry of Education to design more statistical units for the Pre-University and Junior College levels, to support the use of constructivist pedagogies in the A-level classrooms.

2. Will teachers be receiving training in the implementation of a PF unit? If so, what type of training are we expecting? (+)

Yes, professional development will be provided for teachers who are interested to implement a PF unit /PF units. In professional development sessions for a PF unit, teachers’ content and pedagogical content knowledge will be developed. On average, professional development for a unit will take about one to three 1.5 hour sessions, depending on the needs of the teachers.

3. What is the time commitment like for teachers in the implementation of a PF unit in the classroom? (+)

On average, the Generation and Exploration phase will take between 30 to 50 minutes, and the Consolidation and Knowledge Assembly phase will take between 60 to 120 minutes of lesson time depending on the topics, the needs of the teachers and students, and the timetable constraints.

4. Which term is best term to carry out PF? (+)

There is no “best term” to carry out PF. This is entirely up to the school’s Scheme of Work and the teachers involved.

5. Is there a specific number of teachers or classes to be involved in the implementation of PF? (+)

We have no specific requirements for the number of teachers or classes. We leave this decision entirely to the schools.

6. How do we choose the teachers to be involved in PF? (+)

As designing problems for and implementation of PF is effortful and requires a high level of commitment, teachers who are involved in PF must want to teach the topics in a different way.

7. How do we choose students to be involved in PF? Is PF only for high ability students?(+)

There is no restriction on the type of students. Our studies have shown that low ability students also benefit from PF (see The Research Project page).

8. How should teachers group students during the group work session?(+)

Teachers should place students who they know can work well together in a group.

9. Can teachers who are not involved in PF sit in during the professional development sessions?(+)

Of course! We welcome anyone who is interested in PF to sit in in our sessions.

10. Will any data be collected from the PF team when I implement a PF unit? (+)

We now no longer collect data from schools. Therefore, it is up to the schools to decide their own measures to assess students’ learning outcomes. Teachers interested in using our pre and post assessment materials for the various units available (see Section II.1) can feel free to contact us.