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So Important!

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Thank you for shining a light on the inherent power and far reaching consequences of asking questions and seeking answers with a right/wrong mindset. I fully agree with your comments regarding the teaching of process, "The emphasis in schools must be on the processes of learning, not solely on results." I believe as long as teachers and administrators stay plugged into the information dissemination paradigm we don't stand a chance of making the changes needed for our 21st century students. I see your discussion of "mistakes as a compelling way into the larger and enormously important issues of developing self-efficacy, creativity, lateral thinking, self-regulation and problem-solving ability. I have highlighted these issues too in my book Learning for Keeps: Teaching the Strategies Essential for Creating Independent Learners.

Teacher

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In my classes, I intentionally make mistakes. Starting with the first day of class, I hand out my papers that say at the top, "Find at least one typo, circle it and fix the mistake." I will have misspellings, incorrect punctuations, incorrect syntax, or false statements. Students like being the first to find the typo. Also, I say to the class that I will make mistakes or tell them that they are wrong when they are correct because I want them to correct me. The students enjoy catching me making mistakes. I then acknowledge my mistake and thank them for correcting me. As the year progresses, I observe the students do respond to each other in a similar manner.

Great Points!

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In my foreign language classes I hope and expect the students to make several mistakes through the course of the year and explain to them that it is critical to the learning process. It's easy to give examples of how we made (and continue to make) mistakes using our first language. I agree that far too many students are afraid of being wrong and therefore do not take the necessary risks. One of my German professors always said, "If you are going to make a mistake, make a big one-- you are more likely to learn from it."

Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

I'd just like to point out

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I'd just like to point out that we have a lot of work in our society as well as our schools in order to promote "better mistake making."

First, we need to allow people to make mistakes in online social spaces (like posting pictures of themselves nude) and find a way to make these kinds of mistakes things which don't destroy people forever. We used to forget about this kind of stuff, now it follows us forever.

Second, we need to expect restitution from people when they make mistakes, whatever they may be. Mistakes should be things people grow from, not things which destroy them.

David

Instructional Coach, Leadership Coach, Math Specialist

The Mistakes - Hope Connection

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+2

Couldn't agree more, Alina. You can't win if you don't play--and the way to get kids to "play" is to stress effort more so than accuracy. On a related note, I've seen a relationship between the extent to which teachers promote learning from mistakes and the degree to which students feel hopeful--and thus willing/unwilling to give something their best shot.

It starts with teachers (AND school leaders) embracing this ideology, as you've written. But there's also the practical matter of creating classrooms that support this ideology through mistake-friendly policies. See my blog post, Student Success Prerequisite: A Ray of Hope, for a few examples.

I agree. The best math

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I agree. The best math teacher I have ever had, for instance, always insisted that what truly mattered was that we eventually understand what we needed to learn, not that we got it right the first time. I remember that we could for instance always ask for a make-up test if we hadn't done that well on the first one and if we thought that now we had understood it all better. And he was always willing to give extra explanations or more exercises if we thought we needed it to improve.

I'm happy to see that more and more teachers understand that education at the K-12 level is not about ranking people once and for all ("you got a C on a test, you're keeping it forever"), but about finding the most effective and stimulating ways to allow as many people as possible to gain better mastery things that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

I have occasionally heard students complain that some teachers humiliate those who make a mistake. In my opinion, it is educational malpractice, a lack of professional integrity, and should be treated seriously.

President at Smart Science Education Inc.

Mistakes = Learning

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+2

How much has anyone really learned from their successes? Only that they did something right or were lucky. There's no growth in that. These results should not require research. They should be intuitive, even axiomatic.

In science classes, many mistakes are caused by incorrect preconceptions. The best science learning takes place when the student confronts these preconceptions with exploration.

I once had a student come to me (I was helping my son with a lab in the class he was teaching) and say I tried all of the different pendulum masses, and they all had the same period. What did I do wrong? That's the beginning of a thought process that must be carefully nurtured so that the student begins to think differently. It's a start to developing Carl Sagan's famous "baloney detection kit" that he claims all scientists have.

Why restrict this valuable thinking tool to scientists? (BTW, good history teachers help students do this too.) A good science course will stop telling students the answers before they find out for themselves.

Knowing the answers means nothing. Your smart phone can look them up in seconds. Knowing how to get to the answers, how to THINK, means everything. Preventing failures, avoiding mistakes, and focusing on just the answers destroys minds. Educators should be building minds, not destroying them.

Edu Consultant. Blogger & Social Media Marketing at Edutopia

Dont be afraid to Fail!

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I am a firm believer in freeing ourselves and likewise our students to make mistakes. Resonates for me, as I listed that as my last "tidbit" for a current Edutopia post: Don't be afraid to fail."And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." ~Thomas Wayne from Batman Begins (2005) Until we,the grown-ups, recognize this powerful tool, of "falling", we won't be able to support our students to do it. Thanks for this wonderful piece!

So true!

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It was a joy to read this post, as well as the comments following. Too often I have observed in classrooms where many students will not participate because they are fearful of making a mistake or giving a wrong answer, which means an answer different than that of the teacher. Only an emotionally safe culture allows for those mistakes, so I congratulate all who commented, and I wish you well in your endeavors!

Math Coach at Box Elder School District, Brigham City Utah

Learn from mistakes

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I tell my students from the first day they will fail in my classroom, but then follow it up with how to learn from mistakes. I give them a problem that looks easy but they can not answer. This leads into a discussion on how to take the knowledge we have gained and use it to solve other problems. I think the classroom is the best place to let students make mistakes because the consequences are small.

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