How Mistakes Help Students Learn

Posted by on January 15th, 2019

When a student responds to a question or assignment, the teacher then looks at the response to determine if the answer is right or wrong. What seems like a simple process is actually more complicated because the teacher must think about how and why the student came to their answer.

Wrong answers don’t have to be the end of the line when it comes to a student’s ability to understand. Wrong answers can actually be the crucial first step.  When a student answers a question incorrectly, it is still a form of critical thinking. If a student is lost on the concept and makes a guess, the reason for the guess can provide valuable insight to their overall struggle.

Encourage students to discard their previous beliefs that a wrong answer is bad and to seize mistakes as just another avenue to success. Whether it’s a math problem, or a historical fact mix up, asking students to analyze why they came up with the answer they did provides the framework to adjusting their knowledge.  

Learning from mistakes and wrong answers can also help students provide context to the right answer. If they get a question wrong, they provide themselves with a new way of thinking about the question and the content. When they are faced with the concept in later assessments, they will have an avenue of thought and not just a memorized response. This will provide a deeper understanding overall.  

Engage and inspire your students by showing them how their mistakes are part of the learning process. Mistakes are proof you are trying!


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