Some basic mistakes, such as a misspelled word or a simple calculation error usually do not warrant a larger class discussion. So to determine which errors should be explored further, teachers must first keep in mind the overall level of content mastery in the class and evaluate if a particular mistake would promote insights and foster common understanding. This may also be the case if the reasoning to arrive at the solution is correct but the process went down the wrong track, or vice versa. By providing time for students to explain both their process and reasoning, teachers can illuminate how a particular error can be avoided in future learning.
A great time for teachers to review a mistake is when it
may provide a unique or original approach to solving a problem while
challenging widely-held assumptions. If a class is quick to reach a conclusion
with an issue that is nuanced, it can be beneficial to provide alternative
views to group thinking. These conversations may also encourage greater
tolerance for a range of perspectives.
The end goal in diving deeper into student errors is to help them be their own best critics so they can, over time, develop a skill for examining and then learning from their own mistakes independently. And when the learning is particularly complicated and messy, as is often the case in the best classroom environments, being self-reflective about one’s mistakes can be among the most important skills that students take with them into the world.