Why Academic Failure May Be A Good Thing

Having finished my third module in my second year at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy I want to take time to reflect on the realities of academia. Why am I doing this? Simply due to the fact that the CAO is not a standard academic institution.

If the CAO is not a standard academic institution then what is it? I am not the authority on this topic as I am a student, not a person in a position to direct the identity of the CAO so take anything I say here as merely my opinion. The CAO is run by clinicians. The aim is to produce more successful clinicians. To create successful clinicians requires that the educational process find those things that the students do NOT know and improve upon the shortcomings. There is no room for not knowing information that is pertinent to patient care.

How does this relate to academics? As a general (and possibly inaccurate) statement, most academic programs are geared towards ensuring that the students satisfy certain benchmarks. To do this the students are provided with the pertinent information and then tested on it. When the test results come in, as long as the student has managed to get above the benchmark percentage they are deemed good enough. This will not cut it in Osteopathic practice (not if you want to be a legitimate Osteopath).

To be a successful 10 fingered Osteopath you must know anatomy INTIMATELY. I have my struggles with this regularly as I am exposed to the fact that I always have more to learn about anatomy. The CAO makes sure that they find out what you don’t know and then they make sure that you do know it. I find that my opinion about the CAO places it as more of an apprenticeship program. The students are learning from people who have done the job, who are still doing the job. The environment is one in which the students are essentially required to fail so that they can be shown how to succeed. In an academic environment failure means that you will not progress. When learning a profession that involves patient care the student’s grades are not the benchmark, the ability to competently care for the patient is.

It seems fair to state that a good program that promotes true learning is one that provides a safe place to fail. It is better to fail in the presence of those that can make you better than to fail your patient. Failure can feed success if handled appropriately. If a student constantly gets high grades then the knowledge that they do not possess is never found (trust me, we all have things that we do not know). When neither the student or the teacher is aware of the student’s blind spots they can not be corrected. When learning Osteopathy, or anything else, do not be afraid to fail when you are in the hands of capable teachers, their role is to make you better and they can only do that when they know what you need to be better at.


One thought on “Why Academic Failure May Be A Good Thing

  1. Great entry! It makes the prospects of failing a little less intimidating, and a little more humbling. Thanks!

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