Adventure Specialists' Advice

February 4, 2017

Why Kids Should Pay Attention to Their Mistakes

By Rachael Rettner

Kids who think they can get smarter if they work hard are more likely to bounce back from their mistakes than those who think their level of intelligence is set in stone, a new study finds. This may be because kids with a so-called growth mind-set, who believe intelligence is changeable, are more likely to focus on their mistakes than those with a fixed mind-set, who believe intelligence is not changeable, the researchers said.

"The main implication here is that we should pay close attention to our mistakes and use them as opportunities to learn," rather than glossing over mistakes, study researcher Hans Schroder, a doctoral student in psychology at Michigan State University, said in a statement.

In the study, the researchers first interviewed 123 children (average age of 7) to determine whether they had a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. The children were asked questions such as "imagine a kid who thinks that you can get smarter and smarter all the time…how much do you agree with this kid?" Then, the researchers monitored the children's brain waves while the kids performed a task on a computer, which involved pressing the spacebar when they saw certain images.

The researchers analyzed the brain responses that occurred within half a second of the children making a mistake on the task. In general, a bigger brain response means that a person is paying more attention to her or his mistake, the researchers said. The study found that children with a growth mind-set were more likely to have a larger brain response after making a mistake, compared with children who had a fixed mind-set. This suggests that children with a growth mind-set were paying more attention to their mistakes, the researchers said. What's more, children with such a mind-set were more likely to improve their accuracy on the task after they made a mistake, compared with children who had a fixed mind-set, the study showed.

The study also found that children with a fixed mind-set could still improve their accuracy on the task, but only if they paid close attention to their mistakes.

The findings may have some practical implications for parents and teachers.

"It is a seemingly natural reaction to comfort children when they make mistakes," but some ways of doing this may distract children from learning from their mistakes, the researchers said. Instead of shying away from children's mistakes, parents and teachers could offer this advice: "Mistakes happen, so let's try to pay attention to what went wrong and figure it out," Schroder said.

The study was published online Jan. 16 in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

Important Dates

Feb. 7: Combined Staff and Staff Photo

Feb. 14-18: ACSC Basketball Tournament and Spirit Week

Feb. 15: Progress Reports

Feb. 21-23: MEW

Feb. 28: Divisional Meeting; DJHS Decisions

March 6: No School


Can you remember a time when you were in school, and a teacher asked an obvious, awkward question that no one wanted to answer? I can think of a few of those moments! Now that the tables are turned and I am in the role of the teacher, I can fully appreciate the work it takes to develop strong questions for classroom assessment. We’ve talked in previous weeks about the importance of active learning, but as I said last week, active learning, a formative assessment vehicle, rises and falls on the quality of the questions being used. So how do we measure the quality of our questions?

Thankfully, with having a much stronger grasp of our classroom objectives through the mapping process this year, judging the quality of our questions is straightforward. Simply put, the questions for each day’s active learning activities should come directly from the course objectives we’ve been writing. As I’ve been teaching this semester, I’ve been challenging myself to tailor my questions to fit completely under the umbrella of my course objectives. One objective might have multiple levels of questions around it, and I’ll use Bloom’s taxonomy to assure that I’m assessing that objective from lower to higher level thinking skills. With these course objectives as a guide, asking good questions is easier than ever. With questions out of the way, next week we’ll look at the second essential ingredient to active learning, total participation.

Susan Allen

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