Because academic failure is relatively common in higher education, ensuring student success is a main goal in universities.
Success at university takes more than attending the courses, reading references and earning a grade at the exams. It takes coping with difficulties, saving energy to struggle when times are rough, staying positive and flexible even when things turn wrong, having the capacity of analyzing why and how failures guide you on the way. Consequently, self-advising tools should include more “failure-oriented” activities, i.e. tasks that help students dealing with failures in an analytic and constructive way.
A failure CV is a non-standard resume or journal that specifically underlines:
- any kind of “initially expected success” at university that finally turned wrong
- degree programs to which a student did not gain acceptance
- internships he /she did not obtain
- awards and scholarship he / she did not win
- research funding or academic projects he / she did not receive
- paper rejections from academic journals
Failure CVs and failure journals are interesting and efficient for:
- Keeping track of what went wrong and how the failure can be overcome
- Giving some perspective, helping scaffolding
- Helping to build coping strategies (i.e. helping defining how one can handle disappointment and manage to set new goals for the future?)
- Gaining self-esteem and self-confidence
- Enhancing perseverance and stamina
- Sharing common sense and honesty
For example, Chris Golde (2016) cites four reasons why writing failure CVs is beneficial for students. It is helpful for:
- Documenting progress (better sense of control)
- Developing resilience
- Inspiring others
- Combating the culture of academia that celebrates success and hides failures
Golde, Chris. 2016. Write a Grad Student CV of Failures | Celebrate Risk Taking. Grad| Logic. http://gradlogic.org/cv-failures/
Failure support can be offered to students ever since the last two years of college, though it is particularly meaningful for master degree students and PhD students who are more experienced.
Failure CVs and failure journals writing takes the combination of phases of individual reflection and writing work with phases of discussion with tutors and peers, so the best pedagogical format is workshops. Such workshops can be scheduled regularly during a semester or a year (i.e. over several weeks or months of courses). It can also be offered in a condensed format during internship semesters or summer schools.
Here are a couple outlines for getting students started:
- Chris Golde suggested an outline with categories to help students getting started in writing their failure CV (see her May 2016 post).
- For a humorous (yet very relevant!) description and analysis of an academic failure, read the recent post of Roberta Biasillo “How to accomplish a failure: the academic toolkit”.
Finally, note that failure CVs as well as failure journals might as well be written and printed on paper (i.e. text documents: .doc or .pdf files) or displayed online (via texts or videos uploaded in an eportfolio, a blog or a personal website; some failure CVs were even published on Twitter accounts!).
A few examples of failure CVs:
Bradley Voytek’s resume (page 27)