1. Treat mistakes as a part of learning
Celebrate mistakes! Every time a student makes a mistake, thank the student for growing their brain. When you make a mistake while teaching, use the opportunity to teach that everyone makes mistakes. Even better, be intentional about teaching that even the best of us make mistakes. There are some great quotes and videos you can use to create a lesson on growth mindsets. Check out these books and websites for more lesson ideas.
2. Make more time to help
Accepting mistakes as a part of learning means planning and preparing for them in class. A teacher recently said to me, “I wish we had a 30-minute study hall at the end of each day so that the students could do their math work in front of me so that I could help them.” Why can’t independent practice with your teacher help be a part of the time spent in class? Why do we leave independent practice to be done alone as homework?
Allowing more room to make mistakes in your classroom means providing more time for one-to-one help. Usually, this means less time for direct instruction and more time for independent practice. Consider using video to deliver direct instruction, shorten your lessons into mini-lessons, or adopt a flipped classroom so that you can spend more time helping individual students during class time. Also consider ditching homework or only give “buddy practice” homework so that students get immediate feedback while completing homework independently.
3. Use formative assessments
We should treat assessment as a way to help our students learn from their mistakes. Ultimately, students should be in charge of their own learning. Teachers should constantly monitor student understanding through formative assessment. Products such as GoFormative and IXL give instantaneous data on student achievement on a given activity or standard.
It is easy to make assumptions about student achievement based on past student performance, but learning is unpredictable. Actual performance data from formative assessments helps efficiently identify student mistakes so that you can spend more time with those students who truly need assistance and recognize which students need more of a challenge.
No problem goes unfixed
By teaching through a growth mindset lens, we strive to create an environment where mistakes can’t be skipped over. We should strive for a classroom culture where there is no excuse for not trying. Though it may sound difficult, the only way to achieve this high bar is to change your role in the classroom. Teachers should no longer be the gatekeepers of knowledge. We should be guides who put students in charge of their own learning. Sometimes this means getting out of our own way and adopting a growth mindset as teachers as well.
[Editor’s Note: See previous Blending My Practice columns here.]