Testing our limits. Why making small mistakes is essential to learning.

Yesterday a friend was driving me to a meeting. I hope she will forgive me for using her driving as an example of how we learn. This particular friend has just learnt to drive (at the age of 25. I didn’t learn till i was 32, so she was well ahead of me in this measure). A couple of times, as we were driving, i became aware that she was doing things that i did myself as a new driver. Once, looking over her right shoulder, she veered gently left, out of her lane. Once, she tried to gather speed to overtake a lorry on a narrowing dual carriageway, before realising that it wasn’t going to work in the space allowed.

Now, my friend, lets call her ‘Jane’ to save me being in too much trouble, is probably a better driver than me, but the interesting thing was that i remember carrying out both of these manoeuvres myself as a new driver and learning from the results. I remember recognising that when you look over one shoulder, you tend to veer the other way, and these days i correct that automatically, or am at least aware of it. I also remember clearly shaving past a car as my enthusiasm for a particular overtaking event out-shadowed my technique and horsepower.

Positive reinforcement through feedback is a key part of how we learn any skill. When i first started to work with Lino cutting as a printing method, i pushed the cutter hard into a piece of cold Lino, across which it skidded and just missed my finger: lesson learnt, luckily not too painfully.

My point here is that the mistake is not incidental to learning, it’s the cause of it. This point also struck me yesterday when talking about the assessment methodology for a particular project. I am never a fan of multi choice questions, the typical easy options for e-learning, which just tests knowledge. You’ll never learn not to veer left from a multi choice test. The only way i know if you can drive well is to be your passenger, and the only way we can know if someone has truly learnt something is to experience their revised and improved behaviour or skills.

To truly allow effective learning to take place, we don’t so much need to test for what is being done right, but rather we need to create space to make mistakes.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Assessment, Driving, E-Learning, Learning, Mistakes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Testing our limits. Why making small mistakes is essential to learning.

  1. Pingback: Finding your fashion: learning to coordinate learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  2. Pingback: The skyline of London: to learn is to change | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  3. Pingback: Playing with learning: a very sociable model | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  4. Pingback: Building a rocket to fly to the moon: are your learning blueprints complete? | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  5. Pingback: Bartering for backgammon: creating a shared experience in learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  6. Pingback: Narrative | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  7. Pingback: Experiential Learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  8. Pingback: On the ninth day of Christmas Learning: perspective | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  9. Pingback: Agility | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  10. Pingback: Learning to juggle | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  11. Pingback: Julian y Juandon, comenzamos… (moviendo las organizaciones)!!! – juandon. Innovación y conocimiento

  12. Pingback: Julian y Juandon, comenzamos… (moviendo las organizaciones)!!! - Blog y noticias

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.