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“Some of the greatest learning occurs when learning from mistakes”


Although this task is somewhat controversial, we believe it is worth your serious consideration. The problem-solving steps that you teach your students work just as well with academic problems as social problems . And using it for academics reinforces it with your use with social and behavioral problems .

Consider the following scenario of a seventh-grade student who answered a math problem incorrectly:

What is the problem?

- I came up with the wrong answer

What did you choose to do?

- I put these numbers here and divided here and then changed to a percentage

What were the results of your choice?

- The wrong answer

What other choices could you make?

- I don’t know

- Here is another way to solve this problem

What are you going to do now and next time?

- I am going to redo this problem and next time remember to put in this step

Demonstrate your new behavior

- (The student reworks the problem)

How can I help you?

- When you go over the correct answers, be sure to show us the steps

The above is certainly a very simplistic example, but does show how the process works just as well with academic problems. We have never quite understood why schools accept failing grades, especially in elementary grades. In accepting and recording failing grades, we ensure gaps in the student’s learning and have set extremely low expectations. Most of the seriously disruptive students we have worked with had gaps in their learning. This was due to too much time out of class, various other reasons, and the acceptance of failing work. Many of these students had higher than average IQ’s but had difficulty in many academic areas.

Many teachers today do not accept failing grades and record I’s (Incomplete) for anything under a 70 or 75. The students are responsible for finding their mistakes and re-working the assignment. The students can do this on their own, get help from others, or help from the teacher. Students need to know that mistakes are also acceptable in academics but they must learn from their mistakes.

Some teachers in primary grades require some work every week to be improved until an A can be recorded. This is because some students never see what an A paper looks like. How can students ever believe they can make A’s if they never see an A on at least one of their papers? The practice of making students learn from their mistakes and holding A expectations can have a life-long effect on many students.

Experts say that an ideal grade is both an accurate measurement of performance and an accurate measurement of ability. If we allow students to solve their academic problems (learn from previous mistakes), then their performance and ability increase. This brings us to the issue of using academic punishments . As you recall, we defined a punishment as an action where the student had no control. In recording failing grades and not allowing for improvement, we have, in effect given a punishment. If the student only received a 50 on the assignment and an Incomplete was recorded, the student is still in control of learning from the mistakes and receiving a passing grade.

We have seen the great harm done to many students with the use of punishments in regard to academics. Special education students were taken out of an elective class they enjoyed and were doing well in because of the inability to pass or act appropriately in another class. Students with great athletic ability were taken off sports teams because of the inability to pass all of their classes. Many students cannot even run for student council or hold an elective office if their grade-point average was not at a certain level. We realize that these practices began with good intentions, and if you continue to view success by only looking at the 80%, you might think that no pass, no play and other similar policies are working. These punishments, however, were very often the last straw for many of the 20% students. Why do we continue to believe that punishments will solve poor social or academic performance? These students need extra teaching and problem-solving, not punishments.

Other academic punishments can be the taking off of points for all kinds of things, e.g., neatness, lateness, not doing things in exactly the prescribed manner, and on and on. Even worse is giving zeroes. How can a zero be an accurate measurement of a student’s ability? Obviously, it cannot. In all of these instances, in completes can be given and work can be redone. It should be noted that some teachers allow for full credit of makeup work and others only give partial credit. We are in favor of full credit, but this is either the teacher’s choice or an administrative policy. If the teacher receives a late paper, she records the grade but has the student problem-solve on the inability to get the work in on time. The teacher learns more about the student and the student learns how to solve the lateness problem.

This is the main aspect of the controversy where some believe students should only get one chance and life is hard. If we are going to model that schools are about learning and learning from mistakes is required, then we should model and practice this in academics as well. We must rescue some students before they give up on the possibility of passing and really become disruptive. We are not giving points, simply setting the expectation that passing work is required and students need to keep working until the expectation is met.

Practical application

Everything written in this book is just as relevant in academics as it is in social concerns. This includes having a classroom where it is a safe place for making mistakes, building relationships , using consequences instead of punishments, empowering students , using an individualized and nurturing system , setting high expectations –all of it! In academics, quit punishing and just teach. Set the expectation that all students must learn including from mistakes. All students must perform to a passing standard . We recommend reviewing all of the tasks in this book with regard to practices and policies for academics.

Expected outcomes

  • Student learning is greatly increased.
  • Gaps in learning are greatly reduced or eliminated.
  • Student motivation is greatly increased and“giving up”is reduced or eliminated.
  • The teachers and students form a more positive relationship.
  • Students learn to problem-solve better.
  • More students pass and make higher grades.
  • Class is a much more enjoyable place to be.
  • Teacher stress is greatly reduced.
  • Students always remember the time the teacher spent in helping them.

Questions & Answers

How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
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it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
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Source:  OpenStax, A learning approach to school discipline: problem solving instead of punishing. OpenStax CNX. Sep 07, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10443/1.5
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