Mistakes are Useful?

If you have heard the phrase that “we learn from our mistakes” you may wonder why mistakes are unacceptable in schools. The very places that we go to learn. In school, the more mistake you make the more you are scorned. Only the students that happen to give the teacher the exact answer that they want seems to succeed in the current system. However, this is not how learning works in the real world. When we make mistakes we learn not to repeat them and we find out what does work and what does not work.

According to (Tugend, 2011) in our current education system, children are more concerned with grades than they are with learning. This causes the supposedly smart students to take less risks in order to get better grades. Students that take more risks are punished with bad grades. So in other words (Tugend, 2011) is saying that the only way to do well in our current flawed education system is to take on behaviors that conflict with learning.

Many subjects taught in school could actually be learned better if mistakes were allowed according to (Donaldson, 2013). For example: science, in the real world is about gathering data. Data is still useful even if the experiment gives you results that do not match your expectations (Donaldson, 2013). (Donaldson, 2013) also says that even subjects as precise as math has gained new useful breakthroughs because of ideas that were once considered wrong.

(Maats and O’Brien, 2014) state that often times students view mistakes as an endless cycle of failures. Students see bad grades and assume that they are worthless and stupid (Maats and O’Brien, 2014). (Maats and O’Brien) also state that learning can be improved if students instead view their mistakes as lessons to be improved upon.

The education system should rethink the way it views mistakes. Mistakes are useful. Mistakes bring new ideas and breakthroughs. Punishing mistakes does nothing but encourage the status quo, and discourage creativity. If students were encouraged to learn rather than be told what is right and what is wrong from teachers, who are not actually all knowing, they could reach their full creative potential. Students should be encouraged to view mistakes as an opportunity to learn and improve. They should not have to see mistakes as evidence of inferiority.


Tugend, A. (2011, September) The role of mistakes in the classroom. Retrieved from:http://www.edutopia.org/blog/benefits-mistakes-classroom-alina-tugend

Donaldson, C. (2013, September) Benefits of failure: why making mistakes in schools is a must. Retrieved from:http://www.education.com/magazine/article/five-subjects-failure-underrated/

Maats, H., O’Brien, K. (2014, March) Teaching students to embrace mistakes. Retrieved from:http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-students-to-embrace-mistakes-hunter-maats-katie-obrien


3 thoughts on “Mistakes are Useful?

  1. Anthony,
    I love this blog as I agree that learning from mistakes is so important. According to the psychological definition of learning, learning is a process that takes place through experience. I think a lot of schools undermine the importance of experience in learning. Although memorizing facts can technically be an “experience”, it is more important to learn in a hands on way- and a big part of this is trying things out on our own and making mistakes. The Association for Psychological Science also pointed out that, while making mistakes is important, the mindset about these mistakes is important as well. Just as you said, seeing mistakes as failure is not conducive to proper learning. Being able to LEARN from a mistake is vital. By using a bad test grade to learn to study harder for the next one, or taking an unsuccessful experiment and seeing it as learning what not to do, we are able to change our results for the next time. On the other hand, if we view mistakes as failure we are likely to give up and become complacent. Therefore, it is vital that teachers encourage students to view mistakes as a learning experience rather than failure.

    How your brain reacts to mistakes depends on your mindset – association for psychological science (2011) Available at: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/how-the-brain-reacts-to-mistakes.html (Accessed: 26 January 2016).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Allison,
      Thank you for your comment. I definitely agree with what you said about how mistakes are a part of learning through experience. Anyone can learn to simply memorize things. However, memorization and understanding are two different things according to (Reeder, 2002). (Reeder, 2002) says that just because someone knows how to memorize something from a text book does not mean that they know how to apply what they learned in the real world. We learn by doing things ourselves and learning how to solve problems by applying knowledge not just by memorizing it (Reeder, 2002). So obviously mistakes are an important part of this process. We don’t simply memorize facts and hope to solve a problem 100% correctly without any trial and error. The way we learn in school is simply unrealistic and should be changed in my opinion.
      Reeder, E. (2002, February) Measuring what counts: memorization versus understanding. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/measuring-what-counts-memorization-versus-understanding


  2. Reblogged this on Thoughts about Higher Education and commented:
    The most alarming part of this post is in the middle where we find out that learners “…are more concerned with grades than they are with learning. This causes the supposedly smart students to take less risks in order to get better grades. Students that take more risks are punished with bad grades.” How many symphonies have not been written in order to protect a GPA?


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