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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 can chip be made from sand
Eke Reply
is this allso about nanoscale material
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where is the latest information on a no technology how can I find it
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
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
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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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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