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Teaching Strategies to Help Students Learn Through Their Mistakes

Janelle Cox

We have all heard of the saying, “You learn from your mistakes.” This is a tried and true saying that most people would agree with. Making a mistake is an important part of the learning process, and sometimes in order to succeed, you must fail first. While the majority of teachers would agree with this statement, our students often get punished for making mistakes instead of us using them as an opportunity to learn. Here we’ll take a look at some teaching strategies to help you help students learn though their mistakes so you can jumpstart the learning process.

Teaching Strategies that Allow Students to Make Mistakes

First, you must use teaching strategies that allow students to make mistakes in order for them to learn from them. Make it clear that in your classroom, there will be mistakes made, and that’s OK, just as long as they don’t give up to find the correct solution. In many other classrooms, mistakes are seen as something negative, but in your classroom, if you want them to be seen as a learning experience, then you must make students feel comfortable enough to make them. Take the stigma out of it and use teaching strategies that encourage students to work hard to find a solution.

When students are able to correct a mistake on their own, they will have increased self-esteem and feel a personal sense of self-success. This in turn will motivate them to want to continue working hard, and putting forth even more effort in the future. This is also a great intrinsic motivator for students. They’ll learn that they do not need an extrinsic reward to feel good when they’ve accomplished something.

Analyze the Source of the Mistake

Once students understand that it’s OK to make a mistake and they will not get punished for it, you can help them analyze the source of the mistake. There are many different types of mistakes that students can make. Whatever the case may be, the root cause should be investigated to help the student not make the same mistake twice. An easy way to analyze for a mistake is to give the assignment or assessment a once-over. Once the student (and the teacher) looks it over once, then they should be able to determine the root cause.

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Give Immediate Feedback

In order for students to truly learn from their mistakes, they must have immediate feedback. If they don’t, then the information can get lost and they may have to relearn what they were just taught. The process that works best is as follows: the Student works on an assignment, they make a mistake, they get immediate feedback, and then they try to correct their work. An easy way to do this is to correct students’ work with them as a class. This way, they’ll get immediate feedback, and will be able to make corrections right away. Always keep in mind the sooner you figure out the mistake, the sooner you’ll be able to correct it.

Allow Students to Correct their Own Mistakes

If part of the learning process is for students to learn from their mistakes, then they should be given the opportunity to correct their own mistakes. The more that students are able to do this, the more that it will become a habit. You can give students time to look over their assignment or assessment to search for any mistakes. Have students also look for the source of their mistake, which will not only help them not make the same mistake twice, but it’ll also help them to develop their conceptual learning.

Ensure Students are Using Mindful Solutions

The overall goal to helping students learn from their mistakes is to be able to use this process as a source of understanding. When students are mindful and go over their work to search for mistakes, they are better able to deal with their problems, versus the students who are told what their mistakes are as well as the solution. Students should get in the habit of scouring their papers for errors, understanding the reason why they made the mistake, as well as figuring out how they will go about correcting it. It is only then that students will be able to arrive at a deeper level of understanding.

Mistakes need to made in order for students to learn from them. There’s actual real science behind mistakes. Researchers have found that using deliberate practice, which is finding out what’s not working and mastering it before moving on, is the key to becoming an expert in the field. As soon as students recognize and view their mistakes as an asset to their success, the sooner they will find themselves being successful.

Do you allow students to make mistakes in your classroom? Please share your teaching strategies on this topic in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this subject matter.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at

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