Making Mistakes Is the Correct Way to Go

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Brad Choyt

Great teachers often set the bar for learning just a bit higher than their students may be accustomed to and then do all they can to foster perseverance and encourage their students to stretch. Of course, when a curriculum or program is challenging by design, students are likely to make more mistakes. But in those instances, the stage can be set to form essential habits for lifelong learning.

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Students who raise their hand and offer an incorrect answer may have a couple of different reactions. They might say, “Oh no, I must not be good at this,” a reaction rooted in a fixed mind-set. Or they could say, “I may be wrong this time, but I can figure it out if I continue to work at the problem,” a reaction rooted in a growth mind-set.

It stands to reason, then, that fostering a growth mind-set is particularly important when implementing a challenging curriculum. One effective strategy for fostering a growth mind-set is to ask students to explain how they arrived at an incorrect answer and then help them determine a correct solution. In other words, when teachers foster learning environments where mistakes are openly discussed as opportunities to deepen one's understanding, both the approach to learning and the learning itself can be optimized.

Many educators in my generation, myself included, were taught by utilizing an explain-it-first-and-get-them-doing-it-right pedagogy. But research is now showing us this may not foster the growth mind-set that is so important in today's world. Instead, students who learn as they go, especially when challenged by curricula that has high bars for students' outcomes, may not only master the material but also develop the habits for learning that will serve them throughout their lives.


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