Discover the wonders of Productive Failure

An experimental development project to translate principles of Productive Failure (PF) for Adult Learning.

The Innovation Centre at the Institute for Adult Learning, Singapore is embarking on an experimental development project to translate principles of Productive Failure (PF) for Adult Learning. The aim is to leverage these principles to facilitate deep learning amongst learners and contribute towards building critical core competencies within the Training and Adult Education sector.

The project calls on a select group of Adult Educators to co-develop a framework / toolbox / guideline on PF for Adult Learning through insights and findings from designing and trialing PF interventions in real learning environments.

Interested participants will be selected based on the diversity required in the project.

What is Productive Failure?

An empirically tested deep learning pedagogical approach, PF1 embodies constructivist principles, where failure is deliberately designed into the learning, to imbue learners with resiliency and learning agility, much needed skills during this “reskilling emergency” that was raised at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in January 2020, where it was said that more than 1 billion people need to be reskilled by 2030 as jobs are transformed by the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (World Economic Forum, 2020)2.

The PF learning environment is designed deliberately to bring about failure in a task so that learners have the opportunity to innovate solutions while exploring complex and novel problems. This guided exploration also allows learners to activate and differentiate relevant prior knowledge, generate multiple representations of problems, and thereby develop skills needed to solve "wicked" real-world problems.

To find out more about the relevance of PF to adult learning, IAL is organizing a special innovLogue session on August 18th with the purpose of creating awareness as well as brainstorming together on ‘Leveraging Failure for L&D success’.

At this session, we bring together leading experts and practitioners from Zurich, Switzerland, Singapore and Sydney, Australia to discuss and showcase how ‘learning from failure’, might be leveraged for learning and development. And towards the end we have an in-depth panel discussion on PF for adult learning.

The August 18th session, is open for one and ALL from the L&D sector, requires no commitment. If you are interested in applying and joining this project, it is recommended to attend this innovLogue. Please sign-up here (

How is the project structured?

The project is designed in 3 phases – experiment / evaluate, verify / validate and finally consolidate / finalize, as can be seen in the diagram below. The first two are iterations of design & development workshops. Each iteration includes, not just design & development, but also the trial and testing of interventions; following which the participating Adult Educators (AEs) convene to discuss and learn from each other to surface insightful practices and factors impacting the application of PF principles for Adult Learning.

This would, then result in artefacts and case studies which will further inform the TAE and shape our teaching practices and learning offerings. Participating AEs are expected to come from diverse backgrounds in terms of domain expertise and learner types to allow for as wide a field for experimentation and identification of key factors in PF design for adult learning, thus ensuring the final output would be practicable to the broader TAE community.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for Adult Educators (AEs) who meet our minimum eligibility criteria, able to deliver and contribute to the expected outcomes and impact from the project. Preferably the AEs should come from sectors facing disruptions in work and learning, e.g., finance, ICT, retail, etc.

Eight diverse case studies to yield rich insights

Diversity to be based on:

  1. Spaces for learning, e.g., classroom, online, workplace and hybrid/blended.
  2. Nature and types of learning outcomes. 
  3. Learner profile / segment, e.g., older workers/learners, career switchers, upgraders.
  4. Types of learning contents (e.g., generic skills; hard skills; technical skills);
  5. Types of industry where the learning takes place; and
  6. Any other info / details deemed pertinent.

Minimum eligibility criteria:

  • At least 5 years of experience in designing, developing and delivering curriculum, lessons as well as assessment for adult teaching and learning.
  • Currently active in adult learning design, curriculum development, delivery and/or assessment with corresponding qualifications and credentials;
  • Have on-going classes (preferably outside of IAL) where learning interventions can be introduced and trialled for the duration of the project;
  • You would be at an advantage if you actively, explore learning innovation, adapt innovative and learning sciences informed pedagogical practices in your teaching and learning.


Together with the project team, the subject matter expert, and other adult educators, an AE Catalyst is expected to:

  • Design learning experiments using PF principles for one of their classes
  • Produce case studies on their learning experiments which include documenting learning journey, iterations of PF interventions, learner artefacts and reflections
  • Co-develop the new andragogical approach
  • Able to commit time and resources to the project and its duration; and
  • Able to analyze, write and produce case studies on the learning interventions that he/she has developed and trialled, regardless of the outcomes of the trials, which would include documenting the learning journey, iterations of PF interventions, learner artefacts and reflections- based on the case study template, provided.

The full Intellectual Property of all materials and artefact produced in this project will reside with the Institute for Adult Learning.


Program Timeline



Tentative Timeline



innovLogue to explore ‘Learning from Failure’ for adult learning: Lay the grounds to develop common understanding of PF principles

18-Aug-2022, Thu [CONFIRMED]

inlab Open Space, hybrid


Development session 1(a): Design and development session, towards using PF principles to pilot in their selected class

18-Oct-2022, Tue

F2f, inlab room


Development session 1(b): review and finalize intervention design & plan

31-Oct-2022, Mon



Pilot interventions with learners

1-Nov-2022, Tue

At AE’s own time/place


Submission of case study, on the 1st round of interventions, designed, implemented and corresponding outcomes of the pilot

~1-Feb-2023 (avoid quiet period in Dec)



Interviews round 1, with AE’s & learners from the piloted classes

Feb-Mar 2023



Development session 2 (a): incorporate insights from first round to improve the interventions to be developed and implemented for 2nd of  design, development & pilot.




Development session 2(b): review and finalize intervention design & plan


TBC, optional.


Pilot interventions with learners


At AE’s own time/place


Submission of case study, on the 2nd round of interventions, designed, implemented and corresponding outcomes of the pilot




Interviews round 2, with AE’s & learners from the piloted classes

24-Jul to 10-Aug 2023



Consolidation workshop (review outcomes of all the interventions and identify key factors and operationalization challenges of PF for adult learning)




Submission of integrated report on the case studies and proposed PF for adult learning framework





How can I participate?

  1. Please carefully read through the IAL webpage and prepare the PF Application Form to be submitted. You may view the necessary files, references which were presented during the Info and Q&A Session on 22nd July, here. (
  2. Email the Application Form to and If you are shortlisted for an interview, we will be in touch with you within 8 weeks.

Deadline for submission of application form: 1st September, 2022

(Note: If project expectation and deliverables are clear, please submit the completed application form. Early submission is encouraged as will close the application once we have confirmed the selection of our adult educator's)

Presentation Deck

Application Form

Contact Us

For more information, please contact Ms. Nilanjana Saxena

(65) 6579 0356

 1 As detailed by Kapur & Bielaczyc (2012), PF has a two-phase design: a generation and exploration phase (Phase 1) followed by a consolidation phase (Phase 2). Phase 1 provides opportunities for learners to generate and explore the affordances and constraints of multiple representations and solution methods. Phase 2 provides opportunities for organizing and assembling relevant learner-generated solutions into canonical solutions. The design is guided by the following core principles: (1) create problem-solving contexts that involve working on complex problems that challenge but do not frustrate, rely on prior resources, and admit multiple solutions; (2) provide opportunities for explanation and elaboration; and (3) provide opportunities to compare and contrast the affordances and constraints of failed or sub-optimal solutions and the assembly of canonical solutions. [Kapur, M., & Bielaczyc, K. (2012). Designing for Productive Failure. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(1), 45–83.]

 2 World Economic Forum. (2020). Why we need a global reskilling revolution. World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, 1–6.