The Role of Mistakes in Learning

Posted by John Duhon on 09/17/2018


I thought it would be great to share with you the value of mistakes. Clearly, no one is perfect, and mistakes are an important part of our learning process both as children and adults. It is difficult for me to understand how schools impart to children that mistakes are a bad thing. It’s important that children be allowed to make mistakes without the focus being on the mistake itself. It is my job to see the mistakes and successes side by side and to make a determination as to whether it is a simple mistake or a loss in conceptualization. More often than not, the mistakes I see are developmental or simple in nature and are very infrequent throughout their work. However, when I look at their work and see consistent mistakes, it alerts me to begin asking questions to determine their understanding of the concept we are focusing on. I can then help them individually to relearn a concept correctly and provide them with more opportunities to practice the concept until they get it correct consistently.

Throughout this process, I always try to help kids understand why it makes sense that they were making a mistake and stress to them that the mistake is important and part of the learning process. Keeping the focus on the pathway to success, as opposed to the mistake itself, will help children to be able to persevere through their mistakes and impart to them a knowledge that, with time and practice, they will ultimately succeed. impart to children that mistakes are a bad thing. As children develop and begin to self-actualize, they begin to see mistakes as weaknesses and start to internalize them in so many different ways. However, when they were beginning the learning process at birth, mistakes were just part of the way that they processed and learned how to do things with a greater degree of accuracy. When our kids were learning to walk, they would constantly fall down, and we were there watching, giggling and enjoying that process of their discovery of the complexities of walking. We also were patient with them no matter what the timeline was because, as parents, it is innate in us to encourage our children to work their way through their falls on our way to walking. School is no different.

This is why grades are dangerous, especially at a young age. Grades become a means of comparison of children for adults as well as between kids. Although their purpose is to convey how a child is doing in class, they rarely do that. They don’t inform people as to either what the kids know or what they don’t know. Children become complacent with their grades, instead of driven towards more success and understanding. 

As you look at the work of your kids when it comes home, try not to focus on anything that is wrong, but instead make note of all that is right. Also, should you have any questions about what they are doing, my door is always open.  We are a team, and I appreciate any time we spend talking about your beautiful children.

1 Comment

irene Belyeu Says:
February 22nd, 2015 at 4:14 pm
So exciting and revolutionary in a good way. Seems like such a happy, productive way to learn.
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