One on One Private Math and Science Tutoring in South Surrey / White Rock BC
Teaching Students to Embrace Mistakes
Thu, 21st July, 2016
In the last few decades, researchers have discovered a lot about how people become experts. The main idea, made popular by everyone from author Malcolm Gladwell to rapper Macklemore, is the 10,000-hour rule. Ten thousand is the number of hours it takes to become an expert in almost any field.
The most important part of that research is not how much practice someone needs to perform, but what kind of practice. Specifically, deliberate practice, which involves identifying and isolating what's not working, and then mastering the difficult area before moving on,
Picture a classical violinist rehearsing. He or she would not play a new piece start-to-finish, fudging through tricky sections. That musician stops in trouble spots, figures them out, and then plays that measure over and over again, and only moves on when it's perfect.
The same principle applies to schoolwork.
Mistakes are the most important thing that happens during the learning process. They tell you where to focus deliberate practice.
So why don't students view their mistakes as a valuable asset?
Well, students don't think about their mistakes rationally -- they think about them emotionally.
Mistakes make students feel stupid. But feeling stupid is just that: a feeling. Specifically, it's the feeling of shame, and our natural response is to avoid its source. If we say something embarrassing, we hide our face. If we get a bad grade, we hide the test away.
Because shame is attached to mistakes, students are afraid to take chances, explore, and think for themselves.
Unsurprisingly, that's the worst move to make if you ever want to get better.
Academic success does not come from how smart or motivated students are. It comes from how they feel about their mistakes.
Changing a student's perspective on mistakes is the greatest gift we can give to a student.
Instead of seeing failures as a reason to give up, student must view them as helpful, learn from them and take them as a key to improvement.
The feedback we get from our mistakes can be the most specific, pointed, and powerful feedback we’ll ever get.
It's a mistake to think of mistakes as something bad. When mistakes become learning opportunities, everything changes
While forgetting depends on many factors, cognitive science research shows that, on average, students forget 70 percent within 24 hours of a lecture or lesson.
Memory and Learning
Practice Tests and Distributed Review as Learning Tools
The second most powerful learning strategy is retrieval practice, or "test-enhanced learning." This involves the use of practice tests and periodic "self-check quizzes" as an effective way to enhance learning and retention.
Compared to popular study techniques such as re-reading, highlighting, and underlining notes, taking practice tests, or "test enhanced learning" is more effective for long-term retention because it involves the processes of active retrieval of concepts and information from long-term memory.
Recent evidence also suggests that practice testing reinforces learning by improving the ability of students to mentally organize their knowledge and understanding, thereby increasing the speed and efficiency of the retrieval process. In addition to reducing forgetting, test-taking also identifies what needs further study and also has shown to help students apply what they have learned.
How Can We Retain More?
According to recent educational research, one of the most most powerful learning enhancement and retention techniques is distributed practice.
Regular, distributed or spaced practice over time improves learning, both long-term retention of information, and the ability to apply this learning to new situations
The timing of the review is critical - to be effective, review must take place soon after the original learning event, and then, in spaced intervals afterwards, as shown in the illustration below. Notice how, with interleaving practice, less is forgotten after each review.
Figure 1 below illustrates how information is lost exponentially over time when there is no attempt to retain it.
The Power of Mind Mapping
However, while frequent review (distributed practice) and taking practice tests increase retention, it is important to deepen understanding and cement new learning by focusing on creating relevant, meaningful connections between new information and what you already know and understand.
One of the very best "brain-friendly" methods to optimize understanding of how ideas and concepts are connected is "Mind Mapping."
At Academic Horizons, we help students to develop the ability and habit to effectively use combinations of all proven, research-based active learning and studying strategies in order to maximize learning and achievement.