Reminder – Mistakes help us learn!

Some thoughts that I had on learning from mistakes (based on a online class discussion with fellow classmates).

I can resonate with my fellow classmates’ comments on the public education system and the fear that was instilled in me regarding making mistakes. It wasn’t until halfway through university that I started to get more comfortable with mistakes and learned to accept that not everything I do has to be “perfect” especially in terms of learning. It’s unfortunate that public education, and our society as well, focuses so much on perfection and “getting things right the first time” as opposed to learning, making mistakes and trying again, and again and again.

One of my favorite cartoons growing up was The Magic School bus and Mrs Frizzle’s quote (as in the above image is one that I try to keep in mind when I teach.

With regards to your questions…

Should we steer away from potential mistakes if they possess learning value?

Well, I would think this depends. My initial thought was “of course not”, however it would best to determine whether or not the mistake could have a potential negative affect on a student. If potential mistakes had only positive learning value then it would definitely be a good idea to ‘plan’ them and be supportive of the student as well.  Reflecting on when I first learned to read, I recall making more mistakes when my older sister helped me read and less mistakes at school.  That said, I would also try reading more difficult books with my sister because I felt ‘safe’ to make mistakes and learn new words by trying. I didn’t have as much fear of correctly pronouncing all the words and I learned so much more as well.

As an educator, how can you encourage and support your students in learning from mistakes? 

This is one of those “easier said than done” tasks for an educator however it is extremely important. I work with adults and teach English as an additional language, and sometimes my students can be stubborn in terms of their learning. Most of the time, my students are so concerned with wanting to sound “Canadian” when they speak English. In other words, they are trying to grasp the “Canadian English” accent. English tends to be a second, third or even fourth language for these students and the majority of them will have an accent, however are so keen on wanting to lose this accent. This is not easy though and quite often impossible because as adults, our language ability is so developed.  Anyhow, one way that I support students when they make mistakes in pronunciation/speaking English is to encourage them to focus on comprehension and to listen to one another and then reflect.  Self-reflection is a key way to learn from ones mistakes, however as educators it is up to us to encourage self-reflection in students and to make time for this in class..

 

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An important reminder

“Every time a teacher reminds the class what an assignment is “worth” (not in terms of its meaning, of course, but in terms of how many points toward a grade it represents), every time a parent asks a child what he “got” on a paper (rather than what he got from the act of writing it), an important lesson is being taught.  The lesson is that school is not about playing with ideas or taking intellectual risks; it is about doing what is necessary, and only what is necessary, to snag a better letter or number.  Most students will quickly accommodate us, choosing “to do that which will maximize the grade and not attempt[ing] tasks in which they might fail, even though they would choose to challenge themselves to a greater degree under other circumstances.” (Kohn, 1993, p. 66).

Take CHANCES, make MISTAKES, get MESSY!

A fellow classmate started a discussion post on learning from mistakes and it brought me back to one of my favorite cartoons…the Magic School Bus!

My classmate talked about how the public education system emphasizes learning perfection and not making mistakes and I can resonate with this and how I gained the fear making mistakes. It wasn’t until halfway through university that I started to get more comfortable with mistakes and learned to accept that not everything I do has to be “perfect” especially in terms of learning. It’s unfortunate that public education, and our society as well, focuses so much on perfection and “getting things right the first time” as opposed to learning, making mistakes and trying again, and again and again.

Should we steer away from potential mistakes if they possess learning value?

As educators, I believe it is essential for us to provide learning opportunities where students will make mistakes and learn from them. This being said, it would also be vital to determine whether or not the mistake could have a potential negative affect on a student. If potential mistakes had only positive learning value then it would definitely be a good idea to ‘plan’ them and be supportive of the student as well.

Reflecting on when I first learned to read, I recall making more mistakes when my older sister helped me read and less mistakes at school.  That said, I would also try reading more difficult books with my sister because I felt ‘safe’ to make mistakes and learn new words by trying. I didn’t have as much fear of correctly pronouncing all the words and I learned so much more as well.

As an educator, how can you encourage and support your students in learning from mistakes? 

Also, as educators, we should definitely encourage and support our students in learning from there mistakes, however this is one of those “easier said than done” tasks.. I work with adults and teach English as an additional language, and sometimes my students can be stubborn in terms of their learning. Most of the time, my students are so concerned with wanting to sound “Canadian” when they speak English. In other words, they are trying to grasp the “Canadian English” accent. English tends to be a second, third or even fourth language for these students and the majority of them will have an accent, however are so keen on wanting to lose this accent. This is not easy though and quite often impossible because as adults, our language ability is so developed.  Anyhow, one way that I support students when they make mistakes in pronunciation/speaking English is to encourage them to focus on comprehension and to listen to one another and then reflect.  Self-reflection is a key way to learn from ones mistakes, however as educators it is up to us to encourage self-reflection in students and to make time for this in class.

Introversion/extroversion spectrum

I watched an insightful TED Talk on Introversion by Susan Cain and have been thinking a lot about what this author said.  I really like how she explained that there is an introvert/extrovert spectrum and most individuals fall along this spectrum and some individuals are right in the middle of the spectrum.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I fall on this spectrum and can confidently say that I am more on the introvert side, however quite often my environment encourages me to be more on the extrovert side.

How can instructors/educators encourage their students to be both introverted and extroverted depending on the environment they are in?  I know one thing that I will be doing with my students is talking about the introvert/extrovert spectrum and encouraging my students to think about where they fall on the spectrum.

Where do you fall on this spectrum?

 

 

Reflection

I’ve been reflecting a lot on reflection lately, partly because it is a requirement for the course I am taking and partly because I feel like I am at a time of my life where I’ve completed certain goals and am working on developing new goals. It’s been 10 years since I graduated for high school and there were certain goals that I set out. One of the completed goals is completing my  BA degree and getting a full time job and one of the new goals is working on raising children as well as focusing on completing my MA degree.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what my goals were when I completed high school and am proud of the ones that are completed and think about the ones that got changed over time and those that were not completed. It’s a neat learning experience to reflect on how we think something is going to work out and how it actually works out and there is wisdom (as indicated below) in learning from reflection. I find that with reflecting on my choices and lessons learned I find new insight that I otherwise would not have recognized. The other reason I enjoy reflecting is that I believe it helps me be more thankful for what I have and what I have accomplished and to recognize both the positive and not-so-positive events that have happened.

What are some ways that you reflect?

 

Quote about Flow

I’ve been thinking about the concept of Flow recently and LOVE the following quote that a classmate posted:

 

Challenge and feeling competent are important for optimal experiences. Teachers support this when they use students’ errors as learning opportunities and provide chances for students to show their skill levels. The students’ skill levels should match the challenge of class activities to encourage flow experiences. The difficulty level of tasks should increase as student skills increase. If a student maintains low skills and perceives the task as highly challenging, then the student may become anxious and experience negative feelings. To provide an ideal level of challenge, teachers can scaffold tasks, provide adequate time for students to complete tasks, and reduce long-term goals into smaller units, which follows Vygotsky’s principles