Failing Forward

100 Miles

Titus Norwood and myself

Let me start by telling a story. I have never been a runner. Pushing myself to do anything physical in my teenage years was like asking me to pull weeds – just something I was not drawn to by any means. I had no desire to be physically fit, but I still wanted to look decent. I joined track and gymnastics in high school, hoping this would spawn a “new” me. I took the lazy way out and did not give my best effort. As a result, I broke both of my ankles and it set me back even more. Now I could resort back to my Subway and pizza-eating habits I so craved. In college, I tried out for cheerleading and a girl fell directly on my neck, knocking me to the floor. I could barely walk for a week after that and I gave up on try-outs. Throughout this journey, my only “WHY” was that I was trying to look good, not feel good. I was trying to keep up with others as opposed to set goals for myself. All the wrong reasons helped me to stay in the wrong place. Eventually, I had two babies after graduating college and fell backwards even more down the slippery slope. I knew that I was going to be forced to look at why I was doing what I was doing, although I really did not want to. To preface all of this, how was I going to try this when I could barely even keep up with my two kids at such a young age. What I learned is that one step at a time is all I need to see at the moment. Small goals, small steps would eventually lead to consistency. I would get used to this and start liking the results, or so I told myself. So, round and round and round the track I would go, very slowly. I was not worried about those folks that ran faster than me or the kids at the track that could run up and down the bleachers and not break a sweat. I decided one day that I would set a goal for myself, a distance goal. Starting at 165 pounds (baby weight), it was very difficult. For a month, I could barely get around the track 4 times. Then by the second month, I was doing additional exercises with the 4 laps. By the third month, I was running more than walking and doing additional exercises. By the fourth month, I was doing two miles and additional exercises. By the fifth month, I was running 3-4 miles and started to venture away from the track and into running the great outdoors. All the while I was focused on distance. When I stepped on the weight scale, I watched the numbers slowly fall and even recorded it. One day, after about 5 months, I reached a goal weight that I had not seen in a long time. It was because I had shifted my FOCUS, my WHY. My WHY morphed from wanting to “keep up with the Jones’ ” to “I want to eat clean and instill a life change for myself and my family.” As a result, I was able to run 5 miles without stopping and consistently lost weight until I reached my goal weight. I even promised myself that I would be sure and run a 5k this year. Everything shifted when I spoke to myself in terms of goals and how they would impact me. I had set my sights on what I really wanted to do and weight loss became a by-product of that. It was when I shifted my focus from what I wanted to unearthing my WHY is when I started meeting my goals, and this transformation happened. I am now at the point that when I go out for a run, I am exercising mental fitness as a way of allowing me “think time” and clarity to what I am doing in all aspects of my life. While my WHY may shift in this way, I am grateful for discovering this so early on so that I could build and grow my WHY into other WHY’s. This is true because before I realized what I was doing, I ran over 100 miles in 5 months and found a partner along the way. This journey into physical fitness led me on a journal into mental fitness and I was able to run farther and exercise mental fitness at the same time.

Behavior, Failing Forward, COVA, Growth Mindset

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Failing Forward

The First Step to Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell (2000)

“Realize there is one major difference between average people and achieving people.”
The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.

Failing Backward Failing Forward
Blaming others Taking responsibility
Repeating the same mistakes Learning from each mistake
Expecting never to fail again Knowing failure is a part of progress
Accepting tradition blindly Maintaining a positive attitude
Being limited by past mistakes Challenging outdated assumptions
Being limited by past mistakes Taking new risks
Thinking I am a failure Believing something didn’t work
Quitting Persevering

The Impossible Question

“If your perception of and response to failure were changed, what would you attempt to achieve?”

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learnings quite as much from his failures as from his successes.  – John Dewey

Behavior, Failing Forward, Growth Mindset, Feedback/Feedforward

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Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE)
– Dr. Dwayne Haranuik, PhD, Lamar University
The learning environment needs to be built for the learner, not the “average” learner (Rose, 2016).

– An integrated approach to creating flexible, engaging and effective learning environments.

We design information systems, smart buildings, ecological friendly communities, learning spaces and so many aspect of our society but we unfortunately do not apply this holistic approach to designing learning environments. Apple has always designed excellent hardware but with their iPhone, iPad and the whole IOS ecosystem they gone a step further and have designed a mobile communication or networking environment that just works. If we apply a similar purposeful design to our learning environments we also can create a significant learning environment that just works.

Whether we are purposeful in its design or we just allow the circumstances to dictate its development, educators at all levels are providing some form of learning environment. Rather than allow the environment to come together on its own and respond reactively to the learning dynamics that arise I suggest that educators become proactive and create significant learning environments. If we start with a student centred approach and purposefully assemble all the key components of effective learning into a significant learning environment we can help our students to learn how to learn and grow into the people we all hope they will become.

The following mandala highlights the components that we need to consider when we are creating significant learning environments:

Creating Significant Learning Environment

Creating Significant Learning Environment

Origin and Development

The development of the Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE) summer institute in the summer of 2010 was a response to Abilene Christian University’s (ACU) 21st Century Vision of educating global leaders who think critically, globally and missionally. To satisfy this vision ACU faculty and staff were required to create courses based on modern instructional design principles that incorporate significant, active and collaborative learning.

Elements of Dee Finks Creating Significant Learning Experiences were combined with the foundations of Inquisitivism and years of practical experience in developing significant learning environments to result in an approach that enabled faculty to design and build a significant learning environment that facilitated engaging, active and authentic student-centered learning.

Several 5 day workshop were run from May to December of 2010 resulting in the development or redevelopment of over 30 courses.

CSLE uses Finks taxonomy and backward design principles but moves well beyond Finks focus on the classroom experience to incorporates the following factors that make up the whole learning environment:

  • Student centered
  • Ubiquitous Access & Social Networking
  • Instructional delivery formats – face2face, technology enhanced, blended, online
  • Instructional Design
  • Assessment & Evaluation
  • Academic Quality & Standards
  • Support & Infrastructure
  • Teaching roles – Didactic, Reflective, Inventive, Transformative

CSLE evolves and the CSLE workshop are re-developed after an observation of an informal learning environment 

An observation of my boys experience on a 2012 trip to Whistler and a visit to the Whistler Air Dome, commonly referred to as the foampit, reaffirmed the importance and power of formal and informal learning environments and caused me to take a more significant stand on the role that the environment and circumstances play in learning. I have been arguing since the mid 90’s that learning is dependent upon the creation of an effective learning environment and the immersion of the learner in that environment. A learning environment can be a classroom, an online course or anywhere for that matter where learning can take place. I have also argued that learning is the responsibility of the learner and that teachers are not able to make a student learn–the best that teachers can do is develop or establish the environment, immerse the student in that environment and then motivate and inspire the learner to take ownership of their learning. When learning takes place a teacher is really just the facilitator who helps the learner navigate the learning environment and process.

You can read about the informal learning environment that motivated me to formalize the CSLE approach and revise my workshops in the Significant Learning Environments post.

In 2013 and 2014 several CSLE two or four day workshops have been conducted for the general faculty, School of Health Science and the School of Business faculty at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). Because the CSLE approach is holistic it can incorporates a variety of Instructional Design approaches and can therefore be modified to suit a curriculum development process, general instruction and most recently a focus on blended and online learning.

The following resources will play an integral part in helping you plan and create your significant learning environment.

If you are comfortable working with zip files you can download the all the workshop files at one time by downloading:
CSLE workshop readings examples and

Or you can access and download the individual files:

Worksheets & Form:
Worksheet-1-Learning Environment-Situational Factors
Worksheet-2-Questions for Formulating Significant Learning Goals
Worksheet-3-Procedures for Educative Assessment
3 Column Table Blank Fink Form
3 Column Table Blank Form
5 Column Table Blank Form
Weekly Schedule of Events Blank Form

Workshop Reference Text
Self-Directed Guide to Course Design – Dee Fink

3-column table – 3 Varied Examples
3 Column table – EDUC Examples
Action Words-Blooms Taxonomy

Pedagogy, Failing Forward, CSLE, Social Constructivism



We believe that we must inspire and prepare our learners to lead organizational change using technology innovations as a catalyst for enhancing learning.
To do this, we create a significant learning environment (CSLE) that gives our learners choice, ownership and voice through authentic (COVA) learning opportunities.
We prepare leaders who can lead organizational change and drive innovation in a digitally connected world.

Core Proposition
Choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning

Student-Centered Learning, Professional Learning, Research, ePortfolios, Pedagogy, Failing Forward, COVA, CSLE, Constructivism, Social Constructivism, Growth Mindset, Feedback/Feedforward, Self-Directed Learning

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The Golden Circle “Why”


The Power of WHY
Let me tell you my story. In January 2015, I had my second child, Micah. I had gained almost 50lbs. I decided that it was time to start running to lose some weight. After many miles of running and my focus on the weight loss, the pounds just did come off. Day after day, I stepped on the weight scale and nothing happened. I couldn’t figure out why? I was left with the question of “why?” Why am I running? Why am I trying to lose weight. I realized it was time to find my “why.” I started to focus on distance, endurance, and strength. I found that running with a goal of distance and endurance should be my focal point, not the day to day weight loss regiment. I decided I was going to run a 5k this year! Before I knew it, people started asking me, “Have you lost weight?” Weight loss became a bi-product of my new goal, my new “why.” How transformative!! I encourage you to spend the next 18 minutes to watch Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle “Why.”  It could challenge your thinking in many ways where you just might be inspired to do something more than you thought you could.

Read this article to discover why failure is a great way to turn a challenge into an opportunity!
Sinek’s- Art Before Science

Thib Talks, Behavior, Failing Forward, COVA

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