4 Kinds of Mistakes

Source: MindShift, Nov 2015

An appreciation of mistakes helps us overcome our fear of making them, enabling us to take risks. But we also want students to understand what kinds of mistakes are most useful and how to most learn from them.

The stretch mistakes

Stretch mistakes happen when we’re working to expand our current abilities. We’re not trying to make these mistakes in that we’re not trying to do something incorrectly, but instead, we’re trying to do something that is beyond what we already can do without help, so we’re bound to make some errors.

Stretch mistakes are positive. If we never made stretch mistakes, it would mean that we never truly challenged ourselves to learn new knowledge or skills.

We want to make stretch mistakes! We want to do so not by trying to do things incorrectly, but by trying to do things that are challenging. When we make stretch mistakes we want to reflect, identify what we can learn, and then adjust our approach to practice, until we master the new level of ability. Then we want to identify a new area of challenge and continue stretching ourselves.

The aha-moment mistakes

Another positive type of mistake, but one that is harder to strive or plan for, is the aha-moment mistake. This happens when we achieve what we intend to do, but then realize that it was a mistake to do so because of some knowledge we lacked which is now becoming apparent.

We can gain more aha moments from mistakes by being reflective. We can ask ourselves What was unexpected? Why did that result occur? What went well and what didn’t? Is there anything I could try differently next time? We can also ask people around us for information we may not be aware of, or for ideas for improvement.

The sloppy mistakes

Sloppy mistakes happen when we’re doing something we already know how to do, but we do it incorrectly because we lose concentration. We all make sloppy mistakes occasionally because we’re human. However, when we make too many of these mistakes, especially on a task that we intend to focus on at the time, it signals an opportunity to enhance our focus, processes, environment, or habits.

The high-stakes mistakes

Sometimes we don’t want to make a mistake because it would be catastrophic. … It is okay to see these events as performance events rather than as learning events, and to seek to minimize mistakes and maximize performance in these events.

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