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5 Ways To Help Students Get The Most From Mistakes

We’ve all heard the phrase, You have to learn the hard way. For most of us, however, this idea comes with negative connotations and reminds us of the pain of being wrong. When you really think about it, though, isn’t it when you’ve made an error that you’ve learned the most? Most of us will never forget what we got wrong on a final exam, but we may not even give a second thought to what we got correct.

This shows the critical power of mistakes and how they can be imperative to a student’s development. To allow students the freedom to learn from mistakes is an intentional decision that requires both time and planning. To get started, here are the top five ways to turn mistakes into ideal learning experiences.

  1. Explain. Don’t just correct. When a student gives the wrong answer on a test, don’t just mark it with an X. Explain what went wrong, what they got right—if anything—and how they could have fixed their answer. Follow up in person if necessary.
  2. Follow their thoughts. If a student is struggling with answering a reading comprehension question, for example, dig into their answer. Ask, “Why do you think that?” or, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” Following their thoughts will lead you to understand the path of their thought process and understand the core of what they are struggling with or not grasping.
  3. Establish a culture of ownership. Your students should know that mistakes are not just ok, they’re actually helpful. Make sure that you give them plenty of opportunities to make mistakes that don’t impact their grade. Even when they do make mistakes on a test, encourage them to see what they learned and why that matters.
  4. Make improvement tangible. When a student makes a mistake, make sure you give them concrete steps to fix the mistake and then follow up. It’s easy for a child to forget about that one and move on to the next assignment without actually fixing the issue.
  5. Show them they aren’t alone. The first thing people think about when they make a mistake is that they are alone in being wrong. Tell students about their heroes who have made mistakes, and make them see that imperfection doesn’t cripple them. Provide the encouragement that will motivate them to continue pushing themselves to do better and learn more.

There are many schools embracing greater independence and ownership for students. To learn more about this teaching style, check out The Bourne Academy in Bournemouth.