Sunday, December 30, 2012

Learning From Mistakes

Learning From Mistakes

“Why Wrong Is Not Always Bad” by Alina Tugend appeared in Education Week.  In it she wrote, “What I’m talking about is how so many of our children are taught, covertly, or overtly, that mistakes are something to be avoided at all costs, that there is only one right answer and if you don’t know it, well, you’re a failure.”

The Montessori Method has a whole different approach to mistakes or errors.  Montessori material is designed to be self-correcting, that’s one of the advantages of the Montessori Method.

Materials, or work, are created so that if the student makes a mistake they will realize it on their own, sometimes only at the end when a piece is leftover.  But the student has the opportunity to repeat the work and discover their mistake on their own, and to learn the correct way to do the work.

By discovering their mistake and correcting themselves, they are learning the underlying principle contained in that work.  This is a much more fruitful, holographic and lasting method of absorbing knowledge.  This makes the student the source of their own learning.  They are in charge of uncovering and discovering the knowledge they seek.

From The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori
“We come to a scientific principle which is also a path to perfection.  We call it “the control of error.”  Whatever is done in school, by teachers, children or others, there are bound to be mistakes.  So we need this rule as a part of school life: namely, that what matters is not so much correction in itself as that each individual should become aware of his own errors.  Each should have a means of checking, so that he can tell if he is right or not.”

“One of the first exercises done by our children is that with a set of cylinders of equal height but varying diameter, which fit into corresponding sockets in a block of wood.  The child begins fitting them one at a time into their sockets, but finds when she comes to the end that she has made a mistake.  One cylinder is left which is too large for the only remaining hole, while some of the others fit too loosely.  The child looks again and studies them all more closely.  She is now faced with a problem.  There is that cylinder left over, which shows that she has made a mistake.  It is just this that adds interest to the game and makes her repeat it time after time.”

“The child might say, “I am not perfect, I am not omnipotent, but this much I can do and I know it.  I also know that I can make mistakes and correct myself, thus finding my way.”  If in the daily routine of school we always arrange for errors to become perceptible, this is to place us on a path to perfection.”

Mistakes or errors are part of Montessori.
Embrace your path to perfection.

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning

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