What is Mistake Literacy?
by Zak Cohen, Partner Consultant
Even before I began my doctoral work, I knew that I wanted to study the role of mistake-making in learning. It’s not a coincidence that this is the topic I chose. I’m sure my parents and middle school teachers could unhappily recount countless stories of the mistakes I made. The thing is, though, some of my greatest learning has been the result of these mistakes. I’ve been able to reflect on what went wrong, pocket those lessons, and move forward with a greater confidence.
On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve made a mistake, grown frustrated, and taken nothing away from the experience. So, what actually accounts for this difference?
Why is that sometimes we learn and sometimes we stagnate or even regress? Well, that’s where Mistake Literacy comes in -- a mindset that builds students’ capacity and capability to recognize, react to, and repair their mistakes.
The importance of such a mindset is echoed widely across the literature and across the globe. Studies from the Philippines, Germany, and Hong Kong conclude that there is a strong correlation between mistake-making and learning, with one study from the United States of America even arguing that “an unwarranted reluctance to engage with errors may have held back American education.”
Whether it’s transitioning to a new career or acclimating to the breakneck pace of technological advances, mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process. And, that’s what Mistake Literacy is all about, making the most of what is natural and unavoidable to the learning process – the process itself.