Let Students Make Mistakes! by Serena Pariser

Making Mistakes Represents a Critical Element of Comprehensive Learning —Let Students Make Mistakes

Can you think of a time in school when you made a mistake? Was it a learning experience or just humiliating? The title of this blog may make some of you cringe, recalling some of your biggest mistakes in your own classroom experiences. Allowing for mistakes to be made is much different from how many of us were taught growing up. A friend once told me of a horrifying memory in 5th grade when she raised her hand to answer a question, incorrectly, and had to suffer the embarrassing laughter of her classmates. She remains fearful of raising her hand in a class-like setting to this day. Mistakes, handled improperly, can be scarring.

The flip side is that mistakes can also, should also, be opportunities to strengthen and empower students. When I say mistakes, I of course don’t mean letting them get the answer on a math problem wrong and telling them “good job”. Give your students a non-judgmental forum for trial and error.

Making an attempt at active participation should always be encouraged, and it is in the students’ trying where much of the learning happens. Let them feel safe and confident enough to leap knowing they may indeed fall. You’ll be surprised at how much student engagement and interaction will soar once they realize that nobody is going to laugh or be angry with them, including the teacher, if they get the answer incorrect.

How to make your classroom a safe-zone for making mistakes:

  • Teach your class that mistakes are part of learning. (You may wish to reference one of Thomas A. Edison’s more famous quotes: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 […]