Last night at the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, Professor Cathy N. Davidson presented a workshop on “The Invention of Failure.” She addressed a number of issues: what is the relationship between the assembly line mechanics of “making the grade” and “grading” as a summative practice of assessment in higher education? What is the role of “failure” as a concept in formal education in general and in informal learning practices? How is failure racialized by standardized testing?  How are both racial and economic inequality mirrored and masked in the language of meritocracy in higher education? What is the difference between “experimentation” as a learning model and “failure” as a model? Finally, the talk ends with some practical suggestions designed to support the success.  How can success, rather than failure, be built into the undergraduate syllabus from the start?  For doctoral students:  what is the relationship between “professionalization” and “risk”? And how does “playing it safe” in one’s research influence the shape and success of one’s future?

Cathy Davidson is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Duke University, and Distinguished Professor and Director of the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center, The City University of New York.   She is cofounder of the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University.


Here are the slides from her presentation:

Video of the Capuchin monkey fairness experiment