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10 Ways To Honor Mistakes In The Learning Process

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Turning Mistakes Into Learning Opportunities

by TeachThought Staff

Today, if you asked me about my most memorable learning failures, I will tell you I am glad they happened.

My errors have made me a better teacher and learner. I can now relate to students who have a difficult time understanding a concept. The failures themselves may not have been my strongest point, but what I learned from them was invaluable. Mistakes can be excellent learning opportunities.

It may seem contradictory: to create situations where students will make mistakes purposefully. We might allow extra time for class problem solving or focus on more challenging examples. Errors often result in increased knowledge. Controlling where and how these errors occur is an option.

Frustration can result if no resolution and feedback are given after errors are made. A positive classroom environment that encourages students may also provide a good groundwork for allowing this type of learning.

How can we use learning errors to our advantage?

1. Instead of discouraging errors, educators should find ways to support individual learning processes.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford studies motivation and found that rather than praising intelligence, educators should focus on encouraging students to think of their mind as flexible and support individual responsibility. Similarly, Jonah Lehrer, in “How we decide” talks about how educators suppress problem solving and may make students feel that mistakes are a sign of lesser intelligence.

Lehrer suggests relying less on praise and allowing time for students to develop skills on their own. “. . . Instead of praising kids for trying hard, teachers typically praise them for their innate intelligence. . . . This type of encouragement actually backfires, since it leads students to see mistakes as signs of stupidity and not as the building blocks of knowledge.”-Lehrer

2. Accept mistakes as part of the learning process.

Half the battle is realizing that errors can be used as learning tools. The other half is learning to use them correctly. Mistakes can work to our advantage. Some students resort to memorization, rather than risk making errors. But something is lost if education does not allow students time to try things on their own.

Many teachers steer away from this model because mistakes take away valuable instructional time. But some new proponents argue there may be something wrong with this model. Perhaps we must reconsider why we aren’t letting students make their own mistakes.

3. Achieving mastery should be the goal.

Professionals are essentially experts who after years of study have learned specifics in a field. But the process of learning a concept is just as important as the concept itself. Why?

Mastery produces learning that is meaningful.

4. Use mistakes as part of a discovery process that engages students.

Allowing time for individual exploration will create opportunities where failures may occur, but they can be used as a tool. In a recent talk, Noam Chomsky discussed how education should allow students to search, inquire and pursue topics that engage them. Chomsky believes that education should allow students to discover on their own. Education should prepare students to learn on their own in an open-ended way.

The Khan Academy is a great example of this. Their model focuses on students experimenting to achieve mastery. The Khan Academy is essentially a series of educational videos in math and other subjects. Their aim is to have a student be an expert before moving on to another subject.

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Using interactive exercises, teachers can gauge student understanding.

5. Focus on self-paced learning strategies whenever possible.

Media can be used to incorporate self-paced learning in the classroom, where students complete lectures at home, and ‘homework’ examples in school. This saves classroom time and switches the focus of learning to problem solving. Students learn general information at home and practice examples in class. Allowing students to make errors in the classroom, rather than at home is beneficial.

At home, there is no teacher or at times, support may be absent to guide students who may give up and not ask a teacher the next day. Salman Khan compares achieving mastery through experimentation to learning to ride a bike. The gaps must be bridged before students can move on to the next skill. You cannot ride a bike without achieving balance first.

6. Technology can turn errors into teachable moments.

Some teachers use student examples on the overhead or power point to show divergent thinking and how students might approach a problem differently. Actually showing mistakes during class (with their names to avoid embarrassment), can make students realize that they are an acceptable part of the learning process.

Seeing another student’s mistakes can also help bridge learning connections.

7. Use immediate feedback to reduce frustration.  

Bill Gates pointed out that the Khan academy relies on ‘motivation and feedback’ of a learning process.  Immediate feedback from mistakes in learning can actually be a powerful learning motivator. The teacher can serve as a resource that helps students find answers on their own.

8. Accept that learning is a messy process.

When attempting one of his inventions, Thomas Edison once said, “I haven’t failed; I have just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”

If we want to encourage our students to achieve their ultimate best, we must acknowledge that learning is non-linear.  Each learner will have preferences and inclinations. No two students are the same. By accepting this, we allow room for individual differences. By allowing students to make errors, they can better assimilate information to their needs and learning styles.

9. Rather than resorting to memorization, allow students time to practice in class.

They may discover that their weaknesses are just different ways of approaching a subject. Rather than a weakness, their errors can be ways to realize that they are just seeing things differently. They are part of a greater learning process that is individual to each learner.

10. See learners as apprentices.

An apprenticeship is a good way to understand how this model works. An apprentice works for years under a Master until he is ready to complete the task on his own. He is allowed to make mistakes, and even encouraged to do so. After learning the basic skills from the master, an apprentice is often required to design a complex project on their own that showcases their unique skills.

Errors are considered part of the process of being a novice. The trainee eventually develops his own style and point of view. After many trials, the apprentice becomes the master.

As James Joyce suggests in Ulysses, a true genius sees all learning as an opportunity to improve and discover. Errors are taken at will. In making mistakes, we can reach new heights and finds our true genius.

While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” – Henry C. Link

This is a cross-post from opencolleges.edu.au; 10 Ways To Honor Mistakes In The Learning Process

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Four Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model

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self-directed learning stagesFour Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model

by TeachThought Staff

Self-Directed Learning is not new–but is perhaps misunderstood.

In the linked post above, Terry Heick wondered about the relationship between self-directed learning and the purpose of education:

The goal of the model isn’t content knowledge (though it should produce that), but rather something closer to wisdom–learning how to learn, understanding what’s worth understanding, and perhaps most importantly, analyzing the purpose of learning (e.g., personal and social change). It also encourages the student to examine the relationship between study and work–an authentic ‘need to know’ with important abstractions like citizenship and legacy.

Studied in terms of adult education and vocation for years, self-directed learning is increasing in popularity for a variety of reasons, including growing dissatisfaction with public schooling, and the rich formal and informal learning materials available online. This is the ‘age of information’ after all.

Self-directed learning is one response, something slideshare user Barbara Stokes captures in this chart, based on the model by Gerald Grow. The four stages–very similar to the gradual release of responsibility model–appear below.

The Four Stages Of The Self-Directed Learning Model

Learner                            Teacher

Stage 1   Dependent        Authority, Coach

Examples: Coaching with immediate feedback. Drill. Informational lecture. Overcoming deficiencies and resistance.

Stage 2:  Interested          Motivator, Guide

Examples: Inspiring lecture plus guided discussion. Goal-seting and learning strategies.

Stage 3:  Involved             Facilitator

Examples: Discussion faciliated by teacher who participates as equal. Seminar. Group projects.

Stage 4:  Self-Directed     Consultant, Delegator

Examples: Internship, dissertation, individual work or self-directed study group.

Theories of Teaching and Learning: The Staged Self-Directed Learning Model, G.Grow. from Barbara Stokes; Four Stages Of A  Self-Directed Learning Model

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The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment

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The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment

contributed by David Garrick, Dean of Graduate School of Education, UCDS College for School Culture

The general idea behind a competency-based assessment is that it provides students and families with specific feedback about student performance that can lead to a clearer understanding of progress and skills gained over time.

As Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the UCDS College for School Culture, I’ve gained a unique perspective on the possibilities that competency-based assessment can provide. Students who attend University Child Development School (UCDS) in Seattle don’t earn A’s, B’s, or F’s. Instead, student assessments are communicated through our own set of competency-based continua for various subjects.

These continua, paired with narrative communication with students and families, make up the school’s framework for assessment, based on skill progressions. I’ve seen the benefits first-hand in Pre-K through elementary classrooms, and also in training at the graduate level.  

By providing specific information about the academic and social skills students exhibit, schools provide detailed and actionable information. This empowers students in their learning and educators in their teaching practices. Here’s a general overview of the benefits of competency-based assessment.

Building Competency-Based Assessments: The Benefits

1. Improved clarity & transparency

Greater clarity allows teachers and families to identify areas of strength and areas where students may need additional support. In all cases, these assessments provide teachers with detailed knowledge about student progress that can be used to build individualized goals and educational plans.

In addition to evaluating proficiency in these domains, teachers should regularly share comprehensive feedback individual student accomplishments and struggles. For example, UCDS teachers provide narrative commentary to families where they focus on how a student engages within each domain, as well as notable accomplishments and struggles.

Focusing on comprehensive feedback brings clarity to the learner, and clarity to the family about what’s happening in the classroom. Letter grades don’t show the full picture (suggesting alternatives to letter grades), and a competency-based model is better equipped to provide students, families and future schools with clear information about each student’s social and academic progress.

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2. More seamless personalization of learning

Through Competency-Based Learning, educators have a better chance to provide a deeper view into each student’s learning attitudes and strategies and can provide resources that best support individual needs. This type of information is key to understanding the unique modes, strategies, and coaching to which each student responds best. This is the foundation of personalized learning.

3. It helps shift towards a culture of assessment

To successfully adopt competency-based strategies, teachers and administrators must first reevaluate assessment. While traditional forms of assessment (i.e., exams and quizzes) are valuable when placing students on a general scale of progress, they don’t show the whole picture. Making changes to assessment can be daunting for some educators, especially those who have been using traditional assessment practices throughout their career. It can also be a shift for parents to evaluate their student’s performance without a grade.

It’s important that teachers pursue resources and professional development that introduce different methods of assessing student progress, and why they hold value. As every teacher knows, the learning never stops – and by staying on top of current trends, curriculum can be adapted to meet every students’ needs.

4. Students better understand their own learning profile

Through comprehensive, competency-based assessment methods, teachers can help students to reach college and career readiness with greater self-knowledge about their learning approaches and needs. Working from a continuum of skills ensures that every student is being challenged in a way that is appropriate to what they want and need to learn and that educators can give individualized support as needed to help them move forward.

Removing the stress of being placed on a tiered grading scale shifts the focus back to learning, while building the confidence to make mistakes. Students take ownership of their learning. They feel empowered when mastering a skill and learn to identify what’s next.

Conclusion

For teachers, competency-based assessment brings depth and value to curriculum. With the focus shifted away from letters and percentages, students become more involved in long-term progress and are more apt to become engaged and take risks while learning.

Ranking students based on undefined competencies and then using that rank to determine their future prospects and contributions is a practice best left to past eras. Competency-based assessment provides more detailed information that promotes better-targeted teaching and learning for all parties involved.  

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5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

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Causing curiosity in students boils down to knowing that student.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

by Terry Heick

Understanding where curiosity comes from is the holy grail of education.

Education, of course, is different than learning but both depend on curiosity.

Education implies a formal, systematic, and strategic intent to cause learning. In this case, content to be learned is identified, learning experiences are planned, learning results are assessed, and data from said assessments play some role in the planning of new learning experiences. Learning strategies are applied, and snapshots of understanding are taken as frequently as possible.

This approach is clinical and more than a smidgeon scientific. It arrests emotion and spontaneity in pursuit of planning and precision, a logical trade in the eyes of science.

Of course, very little about learning is scientific. While data, goals, assessment, and planning should all play a role in any system that purports to actually accomplish anything, learning and education are fundamentally different. The former is messy and personal, painful and fantastic. The latter attempts to assimilate the former—or at least streamline it as much as possible in the name of efficiency.

An analogy might help. (I love teaching with analogies.)

learning : education :: true love : dating service

True love may very well come from a dating service, and dating services do all they can to make it happen, but in the end—well, there’s a fair bit of hocus pocus at work behind it all.

Hubris & Education

Education is simultaneously the most noble and hubristic of all endeavors. There are two minds to every educator. This may all reek of sensationalism, but watch anyone at play, honing a craft, lost in a book, or engaged in a digital simulation and you’ll see a completely different person—one there physically, but far removed in spirit.

In a better place.

Causing this in a classroom is possible, but is as often the result of good fortune than good planning. The best substitutes that can masquerade as curiosity are dutiful compliance and engagement. Neither of these are curiosity, which has among its sources a strong sense of volition, accountability, and curiosity.

Here, let me try.

I want to show you what I can do.

I want to know.

And that last one—a sign of curiosity–is a bugger, one we’ve talked about before. Like the caffeine in coffee, the chords on a guitar, or the wet in water, genuine curiosity is not a thing, it’s the thing.

Not temporarily wanting to know, or being vaguely interested in an answer, but being able to put together past experience and knowledge like the millions of fibers on a network–only to be maddeningly stopped from branching further without understanding or knowing this one bit.

Like stopping an incredible movie right at the climax—that awful, crazy feeling inside would be unfulfilled curiosity—and it’d just kill you not to know. But where does it come from?

And can you consistently cause it in a learner?

If formal learning environments driven by outcomes-based systems have taught us nothing else, it’s that while we often can “cause” something to happen in learner, it is only by considerable effort, resources, and angst.

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But we certainly can create ideal conditions where natural curiosity can begin to grow. What we do when it happens—and disrupts our planned lessons and tidy little units—is another story altogether.

5 Things That Make Students Curious

1. Revisit Old Questions

The simplest curiosities arise from old questions that were never fully answered, or that no attempt to answer was made.

Of course, any question worth its salt is never ‘fully answered’ any more than a good conversation is ever finished, but as we learn and reflect and grow, old answers can look positively awkward, as they are bound by old knowledge.

Strategy to actuate: Revisit old questions—through a journal prompt, Socrative discussion, QFT (Question Formulation Technique), or even a fishbowl discussion. And also revisit the thinking from the first go-round to see what has changed.

2. Model & Promote Ambition

Ambition precedes curiosity. Without wanting to advance in position, thinking, or design, curiosity is simply a biological and neurological reaction to stimulus. But ambition is what makes us human, and its fraternal twin is curiosity.

Strategy to actuate: Well thought-out mentoring, peer-to-peer modeling, Project-Based Learning and a genuine ‘need to know.’

3. Play

A learner at play is a signal that there is a comfortable mind focused on a fully-internalized goal.

It may or may not be the same goal as those given externally, but play is hypnotic and more efficient than the most well-planned instructional sequence. A learner playing and learning through play, nearly by definition, is curious about something, or otherwise they’re simply manipulating bits and pieces mindlessly.

Strategy to actuate: Game-Based Learning and learning games and simulations like Armadillo Run, Civilization VI, Bridge Constructor, and Age of Empires all empower the learner to play. Same with Challenge-Based learning and other forms of learning.

4. The Right Collaboration At The Right Time

Seeing what is possible modeled by peers is powerful stuff for learners. Some may not be initially curious about content, but seeing what peers accomplish can be a powerful actuator for curiosity. How did they do this? How might I do what they did in my own way? Which of these ideas I’m seeing are valuable to me—right here, right now–and which are not?

Strategy to actuate: Grouping is not necessarily collaboration. To actuate collaboration, and thus curiosity, students must have a genuine need for another resource, idea, perspective, or something else otherwise not immediately available to them. Cause them to need something, not simply to finish an assignment, but to achieve the goal they set for themselves.

5. Use Diverse & Unpredictable Content

Diverse content is likely the most accessible pathway to at least a modicum of curiosity from learners. New projects, new games, new novels, new poets, new things to think about.

Strategy to actuate: Invite the learners to understand the need for a resource or bit of content and have them source it. Instant diversity class-wide, and likely divergence from where you were going with it all. At worst you’ve got engaged learners, and a real shot at curiosity.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

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