Why you should encourage your students to make mistakes:

Child with head in hands
  • High School
  • SEL
trisha flassing

My daughter, Amital, never played volleyball in her life, yet when she joined the DJDS team this year, she was very hard on herself. Every time the team lost, she would cry and be mad at herself, saying how bad she was and blaming herself for the loss. I at with her and explained that she can't expect to be amazing at once and it takes time and practice. That she should see this as an opportunity to play and learn. It's not that she failed, it's that she hasn't succeeded YET. I guess something sunk in, because she practiced a lot and then came a game where she was amazing, got so many balls (and they also won as a team). Last week, after the very last game. she came home smiling - I asked her if they won and she said: "No, we lost. But it was fun, and I'm getting better!"

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a tour at Greyland. We saw their super nice and fancy innovation center, and although it was very impressive, what actually inspired me wasn't the space or equipment. It was a white board in the maker space, where kids had to write how many times they expect to fail while working on a project. It became a game, every time they fail they mark the board, the closer you are to your number the more proud you feel. It's innovative and amazing since it teaches the students that making mistakes is part of creating something new, of evolving and moving forward.



The power of 'YET'

In 2006, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck challenged this notion with the publication of her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which sold more than a million copies, became a major success, and changed the face of education as we know it. She coined the term Growth Mindset to describe her idea that with effort and determination, a person can grow and improve.

Having a growth mindset plays a key role in success.

According to Dweck, there are two approaches to capability and development. One approach is referred to as a Fixed Mindset and the other as a Growth Mindset. People who have a fixed mindset believe that abilities and intelligence are predetermined, so either "you have it" or not. They think certain people are naturally gifted in certain fields, while the rest of us are just not.

Growth-minded people, on the other hand, believe their abilities and intellect are always evolving and growing. They understand that people who excel in a particular field have achieved that level of excellence as a result of long-term effort and hard work. Their belief indicates that a person has the potential to get better and better.

The main difference between the two ways of thinking is the answer to the question of whether abilities are innate or developed through effort and hard work. Those with a fixed mindset feel that abilities can't be changed at all, while those with a growth mindset think abilities can be improved, changed, and developed through hard work and effort.

Dweck believes that mindset has a significant impact on a person's success: "For decades I have studied why some people succeed when others with the same talent fail. I have discovered that people's mindset plays a crucial role in their success."

In a study conducted by Dweck, a group of seventh graders that were taught an approach that encourages a flexible and growth mindset showed significant improvement in grades that only increased over time. Contrarily, the grades of students in the control group who did not learn ideas that encourage a growth mindset declined over time, as the study material became increasingly difficult and challenging.



1. Embracing Effort

People with a fixed mindset see effort as a negative thing that indicates inability. They believe that if they put a lot of effort into something, it is a sign that they are not good enough at it. They are sure that if they were geniuses - everything would come easily to them.

In contrast, with a growth mindset, difficulty is perceived as an essential part of the learning and development process and therefore a person with that mindset is willing to put in the necessary effort, for the purpose of improving their performance.

We must encourage our students, even the talented ones, to make an effort, and teach them that effort helps them progress and learn, and that effort is the key to excellence and outstanding performance.


2. Embracing challenges and difficulties

For those who do not possess a growth mindset, challenges and difficulties are an obstacle. People with a fixed mindset will avoid challenges as much as possible and will even give up on goals that are important to them. The challenge is unbearable for them because they may find out they are not as talented and capable as they thought. By contrast, a growth mindset regards difficulty or challenge as an opportunity to grow and improve.

In order for our students to achieve their full potential, we must constantly challenge them and encourage them to accept challenges and learn from them.

3. Willingness to make mistakes and learn from them

Those who avoid mistakes hate them and despair of them, will be less successful according to Dweck's approach. People with a growth mindset see mistakes and even failures as tools for learning and they make positive use of them. They are able to recover quickly after a mistake or failure, learn from them, and get better. Choosing to see mistakes as tools for growth is critical to student success; teachers must therefore encourage students to learn from their mistakes rather than fear them. (Watch how a math teacher from California highlights mistakes here)

4. Seeking Feedback

Someone with a growth mindset will appreciate feedback, receive it happily and even seek it, as feedback is a way to reach further development and learning, allowing them to see parts of themselves and their functioning that they have not yet noticed. Those with a fixed mindset will see feedback as a threatening thing they need to defend themselves from.

Our students' growth mindsets can be developed by frequent and detailed feedback, both from us and from their peers. Following this, you should verify with each student what they did following the feedback.

As teachers, what can we do to help our students develop a growth mindset?



1. Teach the students about the elasticity of the brain


The first step toward adopting a growth mindset is to learn about the elasticity of the brain. In her research, Prof. Dweck suggests that students can be encouraged to develop a growth mindset if they are taught how the brain develops and learns. This method works with children of all ages, even in the lower grades of elementary school. The teaching method is based on the explanation that our brain works in a similar way to our muscles - the more we train, invest and learn more in a particular field, the more our brain develops. Just as Michael Jordan was not born an NBA-level basketball player, and missed far more shots than he scored. So to be successful, we need to practice solving problems in math, physics, and even writing poetry. Many videos can be found online that can provide an explanation of how the brain works and develops.

2. Use language that encourages Growth Mindset:

We tend to encourage and empower students with sentences that relate to their abilities rather than effort and investment. But Dweck suggests that we should reduce the number of compliments that refer to the wisdom and talent of our students, and instead strengthen and encourage them for their willingness to strive, learn, make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Don’t say - “you are so good at sports” or “you are very smart” - instead, say - “You make an effort, do your research, are persistent in your workout, etc.


3. Provide individualized challenges to all students. All students need to face challenges tailored to their current situation in order to learn how effort and learning from mistakes lead to improvement. If a student is repeatedly faced with challenging tasks, which are difficult for them, and can even lead to mistakes, failures, and learning from them, they will develop perseverance and determination and discover they achieved excellence because of their effort. By doing this, you will push your students outside their comfort zones and cultivate positive perceptions about effort, challenges, mistakes, and feedback.

4. Believe in your students - In order to challenge students effectively, the teacher must believe in each and every one of them and encourage them to believe in themselves. Students should not be divided into abilities-based groups as this will not lead to a true sense of self-belief in their abilities to develop and succeed. Instead, they should be offered a route that will take them as high as possible, encouraging them to reach their potential.

Grow successful students

The most successful people in various fields almost always possess a growth mindset. Those people never gave up, believed that their efforts would lead to improvement and progress, demonstrated perseverance and determination, and, above all, weren't afraid to fail.

A growth mindset can be developed in your students - fostering such a mindset could make them extraordinary.

  • Methods and Practices

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