Award Winning Learning: Make Mistakes Big and Small
It’s been just over a week since the event that the Wall Street Journal called “A Blunder for the Ages.” An estimated worldwide audience of 32.9 million people, according to Nielsen, watched actors Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway award the Best Picture Oscar to the wrong movie. Mixed up envelopes, backstage processes, or even distracted tweeting could have contributed to the chaos. After a few erroneous acceptance speeches by La La Land producers, they graciously handed the coveted golden statue to its rightful Moonlight winners.
Mistakes, on a scale from minuscule to massive, can happen. We all make them and can learn from them – and children are no exception. Yet fear and embarrassment from making mistakes can be a real roadblock to learning. For students, internalized pressure to succeed can stifle learning. We need to create support systems that say it’s ok to struggle, and to make mistakes.
In Psychology Today, developmental psychologist and researcher Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, writes that studies have found learning is enhanced when children make mistakes. Whether it involves homework, developing friendships, or playing soccer, learning is enriched through error. Making mistakes is part of how kids are challenged to learn to do things differently. It motivates them to try new approaches. In fact, in Harvard Ed Magazine, David Dockterman, a Harvard Graduate School of Education lecturer and former high school teacher, says, "School is the one place that's all about learning. It's the one place where mistakes should be not only accepted, but expected.”
OK, so back to the Academy Awards. What social and emotional learning lessons can we take away from that Best Picture “Blunder for the Ages?” Children and adults alike can learn that despite planning and practicing, mistakes happen. We need to admit mistakes and be gracious to those affected. We need to focus and minimize distractions (yes, this means phones, cameras, and social media) that can impact the task at hand. Take a hard look at what went wrong, learn whatever lesson the experience has to offer, and try not to make the same mistake next time.
Consider these SEL connections to help students accept that making mistakes and learning from them is a life-long skill.
Self-Awareness: How do you feel when you make a mistake on a test or homework assignment? How do you feel when you make a mistake or do something wrong with your friends or family members? What does that “voice inside your head” usually say to you?
Self-Management: Can you recognize a common theme when mistakes are made? Is there a change in behavior (allowing more time to prepare or minimizing distractions) that could be helpful?
Social Awareness: When it comes to understanding and recognizing mistakes, how can being more aware of other people's feelings play a role? How might you make others more aware of your feelings and concerns to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes?
Relationship Skills: Can you accept imperfections in yourself and others? How do you react when others make a mistake in front of you or make a mistake that might have an impact on you? What might you do to help that person or manage the situation at hand?
Responsible Decision-Making: Reflect upon a time that a mistake was made. What choices were made? What might you have done differently? What did you learn?