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Mistake-Driven Learning is a philosophy that sees making mistakes as integral to the learning process.


As we learn a new skill, making errors allows us to learn for them and leads to a more rounded understanding of what we are learning.


This approach is particularly useful when used in conjunction with problem-based learning (learning through solving open-ended problems).


Christoper Pappas (2015) outlined some key benefits in allowing and encouraging learners to make mistakes. Although originally outlined for eLearning environments, they can be easily applied to traditional schooling too:


The benefits:


  • More risk-taking - telling a learner that it is OK to fail, allows them to take risks which in turn means they can try creative approaches to using the skill.


  • Better problem-solving skills - learning how to overcome mistakes helps to form children’s abilities to overcome challenges.


  • Clear links between actions and consequences - by making mistakes when using a new skill, children see the effect of their actions.


  • Better retention - if a child develops a strategy to overcome a problem by themselves they are more likely to remember it.


  • Reduces fear of failure - if a child is allowed to make mistakes, they are less likely to be scared of them.


  • Boosts confidence - encouraging children to make mistakes will make them feel supported in their learning environment, which can boost their confidence in taking on new challenges.

Key Criticism

The key criticism of 'mistake-driven learning' is that if it is used in the medium to long-term, it can normalise failure. If a child is not encouraged to make the link between failure and later success then they may also fail to see the value that making mistakes can have.


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