Honoring Mistakes in the Learning Process

Decorative: "Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions."


A. "10 Ways to Honor Mistakes in the Learning Process" (post) starts with the assumption that "[m]istakes can be excellent learning opportunities" and suggests ways "we [can] use learning errors to our advantage."

TL;DR Version

  • "We might allow extra time for class problem solving or focus on more challenging examples."
  • "Errors often result in increased knowledge."
  • "Controlling where and how these errors occur is an option."

B.  Ways to Honor Mistakes

1. "Instead of discouraging errors, educators should find ways to support individual learning processes."

  • "[F]ocus on encouraging students to think of their mind as flexible, and support individual responsibility."
  • Do not "suppress problem solving and ... make students feel that mistakes are a sign of lesser intelligence."

2. "Accept mistakes as part of the learning process."

"[R]ealiz[e] that errors can be used as learning tools ... [and] use them correctly."

  • "Some students resort to memorization, rather than risk making errors."
  • "But something is lost if education does not allow students time to try things on their own."
  • "[W]e must reconsider why we aren’t letting students make their own mistakes."

3. "Achieving mastery should be the goal."

  • "[T]he process of learning a concept is just as important as the concept itself."
  • "Mastery produces learning that is meaningful."

4. "Use mistakes as part of a discovery process that engages students."

"Allowing time for individual exploration will create opportunities where failures may occur, but they can be used as a tool."

  • "[P]repare students to learn on their own in an open-ended way."
  • "Us[e] interactive exercises ... [to] gauge student understanding."

5. "Focus on self-paced learning strategies whenever possible."

"Media can be used to incorporate self-paced learning in the classroom, where students complete lectures at home, and ‘homework’ examples in [class]."

  • "This ... switches the focus of learning to problem solving."
  • "The gaps must be bridged before students can move on to the next skill." 

6. "Technology can turn errors into teachable moments."

Using student examples and/or mistakes in class (without their names to avoid embarrassment) can ...

  • "[S]how divergent thinking and how students might approach a problem differently"
  • "[M]ake students realize that [mistakes] are an acceptable part of the learning process"
  • "[H]elp bridge learning connections."

7. "Use immediate feedback to reduce frustration."  

  • "Immediate feedback from mistakes in learning can actually be a powerful learning motivator."
  • "The teacher can serve as a resource that helps students find answers on their own."

8. "Accept that learning is a messy process."

  • "[L]earning is non-linear ... allow room for individual differences."
  • "By allowing students to make errors, they can better assimilate information to their needs and learning styles."

9. "Rather than resorting to memorization, allow students time to practice in class."

  • "They may discover that their weaknesses are just different ways of approaching a subject." 
  • "[Mistakes] are part of a greater learning process that is individual to each learner."

10. "See learners as apprentices."

a. "An apprentice works for years under a Master until he is ready to complete the task on his own." 

  • "He is allowed to make mistakes, and even encouraged to do so." 
  • "After learning the basic skills from the master, an apprentice is often required to design a complex project on their own that showcases their unique skills."

b. "Errors are considered part of the process of being a novice." 

  • "The trainee eventually develops his own style and point of view." 
  • "After many trials, the apprentice becomes the master."
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