Mistakes are expected, inspected, respected

The title of this post came from an Arizona K-12 Teacher of the Year.  She has this slogan posted in her classroom.  It is something that I’ve been working on with my classes.

The most influential reading I’ve shared with my students over the past two years deals with growth mindset.  THANKS to my counseling colleagues and teaching partners, especially Aracely Barajas.   I share Carol Dweck’s work with all of my classes, and most do Cornell notes on it within the first ten days of class.  They also take a self-assessment to find out if they are mostly growth or fixed mindset.  We regular start class community meetings with “who has learned something this week?”  That’s code for who has made a mistake?

The hard part of learning is sometimes accepting our “failures” .  Jose Antonio Bowen shared an acronym that I thought was so good:  FAIL = first attempt in learning.

To make this all genuine, I have to model making mistakes, often doing a think-aloud to model problem solving and learning from it, and show how to accept and move on from it.

I also have had to change my grading practices to support their attempts.  As I teach the process of taking Cornell notes, for example, I don’t give less than full points.  If students haven’t done a good summary or reflection, or if they didn’t capture the key ideas, their paper has an R for rewrite.  (Thanks, Joy Wingersky!)

I’m continually looking for ways to support the learning (and making mistakes) process.  Do you have an idea to share?


Dr. Carol Dweck

Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen
President of Goucher College and author of Teaching Naked


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