Contrasting stances at the crossroads of debugging learning opportunities

David DeLiema, Ashley S Hufnagle, Miguel Ovies-Bocanegra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Moments of failure during learning present a wide range of opportunities for growth. However, experimental research and meta reviews focused on failure and learning tend to target singular valued learning processes, such as efficient fixes or transfer of conceptual understanding. These analytical decisions conflict with research documenting that teachers and students pursue heterogeneous learning processes following impasses, including preparing to curb recurring problems and preparing for novel impasses. Sample: This work focuses on weekend and summer computer science education workshops for middle school students (roughly ages 10–14) in a large city in the United States. Method: Drawing on discursive psychology, interaction analysis and portraiture, we examine the selection and prioritization of five valued learning processes in naturalistic discourse around impasses, especially when students and teachers disagree with one another. In three case studies, our approach blends detailed analyses of conversations with longitudinal portraits of students across a year invested in learning coding. Results: We document how moments of failure not only create openings for numerous learning opportunities, but also occasion argumentation between students and instructors about which valued learning process they view as worthy of prioritizing and pursuing in the moment, including their rationale for foregrounding a particular process. Conclusion: We argue that this work throws light on an under-examined, yet central tension around which goals and supports – and whose perspective on those goals and supports – to foreground in research and teaching that pursue productive learning from moments of failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society.


  • case studies
  • debugging
  • interaction analysis
  • longitudinal analysis

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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