“Mistakes Are Opportunities for Learning” and “There’s a Difference Between Not Knowing and Not Knowing Yet”


Early in Chapter 8, which is entitled “Mistakes are Opportunities for Learning,” I highlighted two quotes by Albert Einstein:

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

Brock and Hundley conclude it was Einstein’s unceasing determination – rather than his intelligence – that drove him to his discoveries. Then the authors asked the reader to imagine Hermann and Pauline Einstein as they nurtured and encouraged their son’s character, imagination, and resolve.

The authors introduced a three-step strategy for “harnessing the power of mistakes:”

  • Normalize mistakes
    • Develop a “mistake language” in your home by using phrases such as, “Great mistake” or “Yay! Another mistake to learn from!”
  • Value mistakes as learning opportunities
    • A wonderful video recommended by the authors is “My Favorite No,” which can be found on TeachingChannel.org. This 5:45 video features a middle school math teacher who uses a wrong answer each day to help students identify the solid thinking within that answer.
  • Coach students through setbacks
    • The authors list five strategies to use instead of fixing a problem for the student. My favorite tip within the list was to be comfortable with silence after asking an open-ended question. In other words, give students time to think.

Have you ever wondered why a child who gives up easily when faced with failure or difficult challenges in schoolwork can also demonstrate an unflappable tenacity when failing repeatedly in a video game? The authors suggest that this phenomenon is the result of the removal of the threat of permanent failure and the removal of the possibility of negative judgment from others. Then the authors list nine gaming-inspired strategies that help to encourage the desired tenacity within schoolwork. My favorite two strategies are “cheats” (multiple tools to boost learning) and “constant feedback.”

The title of Chapter 9 is “There’s a Difference Between Not Knowing and Not Knowing Yet.” The authors say “Yet conveys the promise of better things to come.” The focus of this chapter is on growth-minded assessment. We need to be intentional in designing assessments that support a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. This chapter explains the difference between formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are given throughout a unit of study, and the results are often used to make adjustments to the instruction given. Summative assessments are given at the end of a unit of study to evaluate a student’s learning and give data on the student’s achievement. The authors state that both types of assessments should give immediate feedback and promote a growth mindset. A middle school math teacher from Kansas City, KS states, “…when summative assessment is closely aligned with formative assessment, there should be no mystery on how a student will do on a summative assessment.” Brock and Hundley state that living in the age of information should change our approach to education. Because information is so easily accessible, our goal should shift from making knowledgeable students to making “knowledge-able” students. They go on to say that students should be taught to self-assess their own learning.

These two chapters are full of practical ideas of how to encourage students to learn in the midst of mistakes and how to best assess true growth!

Kathy Geis


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