Friday, April 15, 2016

Making Mistakes in Class (and learning from them) #261

Image source: Simpsons Wiki.
We all make mistakes. Most of the time we can hide them, cover them up, pretend they didn't happen, or even laugh them off. However, I am more exposed when in front of a class - mistakes are easily spotted by students.

A simple typo in course notes is often OK - I can correct this on the fly or point it out to the students as a typo. Sometimes I even remember to update the notes the next day with the correction. If I spot the typo myself I feel OK, if a student spots it first I feel embarrassed. 

What about more serious errors? Errors on exam papers are horrendous - despite all the reviews that take place they still get through. I once had a paper where the marks did not add up to 100%. On another occasion I discovered that I had two errors in the same statistics formula in my course notes - it was pointed out to me by a student. Despite the fact that this formula is rarely used, it was still an error. I had to bring this up in my next class and of course correct relevant course material. Admitting making a mistake in front of 50 students is not easy. One could logically conclude that if had made one mistake in the module - what other mistakes have I made?

Learning from our mistakes is important - I can take some consolation from an article by Dr Lisabeth Saunders Medlock (Life coach and psychologist) "Don’t Fear Failure: Nine Powerful Lessons We Can Learn From Our Mistakes". She writes that "our mistakes and failures are gifts, gems, guideposts in our learning and growth as people" and asks us to "embrace failures, mistakes, screw ups and shortcomings because they not only make us uniquely who we are". She gives us nine powerful lessons to learn from making mistakes:
  1. Mistakes teach us to clarify what we really want and how we want to live
  2. Mistakes teach us to accept ourselves and that we can be flawed and be loved
  3. Mistakes teach us to accept our fallibility and face our fear
  4. Mistakes teach us about ourselves and how to tell our truth
  5. Mistakes teach us, through analysis and feedback, about what works, and what doesn’t
  6. Mistakes teach us to take responsibility
  7. Mistakes teach us about integrity
  8. Mistakes teach us to engage in our lives — to live fully
  9. Mistakes allow us to inspire others

I feel better already!

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