How Do Mistakes Help You Learn

No matter what your profession is, be it a physician, mail-carrier or mechanic; people are generally expected not to make mistakes.

But mistakes happen. Medical errors are costly, but so is misdelivering a package or flubbing a repair on an automobile. To perform these jobs, people are trained – sometimes for years – and make many mistakes along the way in the process of improving.

Students are no different – yet too often children are expected to write perfect essays and ace every exam.

Not allowing children to fail detracts from their learning experience for many reasons. Here are just a few of the ways that mistakes can actually enhance learning.

The experience of failure

Many students spend years living up to their parents’ lofty expectations. They accept what they’re told – that failure isn’t an option – and generally meet that standard.

But somewhere along the line, everyone fails. It could be in the second year of school or the last, or even the first year with a real-life job – but it’s inevitable, no matter who you are.

If a child has never been allowed to make mistakes, avoiding them at every turn, they won’t know what to do when they finally meet an obstacle they can’t surmount on their first try.

Mistakes, then, teach children how to appropriately handle adversity. Rather than trusting that they’ll always know the solution right away, mistakes allow students to develop strategies and backup plans for when their usual method isn’t working.

Only experiencing failure enables the development of these and other important skills – meaning that making mistakes, especially as a young student, is critical.

Identify effective strategies

Sometimes students give wrong answers not simply because they haven’t learned the material, but because they haven’t been taught in a way that suits them.

Maybe they prefer to spend more time reading on their own, or maybe they learn better by watching videos and other visual content. Perhaps lecture-style classes work better for them, as opposed to ones focused on discussion and small groups.

Whatever the case may be, a child’s mistakes may help in identifying which methods of learning and teaching work best for them.

Not all teachers will be able to tailor their teaching style to every individual student – and often, that’s where tutors can be most helpful (source: Inspiration Education).

But getting this crucial information is only possible when students, and children in general, are allowed to make mistakes in the first place.

Deeper learning

The real key to why mistakes actually enhance the learning process doesn’t lie in the mistake at all – rather, it lies in what happens afterwards.

A student shouldn’t be told “that’s wrong, and now we’re moving on,” but rather “that’s wrong, here’s why, now try again.”

Certainly, students aren’t often able to re-take exams in the course of a normal school year. But that material is bound to show up later, in some form or another.

Understanding what are the concepts that they’re struggling with enables students to go back, look over these questions and their (wrong) answers, and start investigating questions like how and why they got them wrong.

It’s a pathway to deeper learning, as students will seek to identify what fundamental information they missed out on that led to giving the wrong answer.

But that deeper learning only happens when kids can make mistakes – and then follow up on them.


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A way to see progress

Going to school can feel like a chore for students who never improve in subjects or school in general – either because they never learn how or because they’re never challenged enough.

It’s incredibly linear, merely a progression from year to year, and it’s hard to see any kind of trajectory or improvement.

When students make mistakes, though, they have a baseline from which to start – one they can build upon and, eventually, judge results against.

This doesn’t mean that every child must fail an exam spectacularly to have a point of comparison for improvement.

It could be as simple as needing much more time to complete mathematics homework in term 1 than later in the year. And seeing that reduction in time taken as an improvement.

But progress is important for not getting discouraged, and it can’t be seen without some amount of struggles.


When a child falls down, the immediate instinct is to help them up. And indeed, in many cases, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

The same goes for students in an academic setting. Sometimes a single mistake is just that, and offering a correction isn’t harmful.

But when mistakes form a pattern, they provide crucial insight into how a student or child is processing the information they’ve been given – and where they’ve gone wrong.

Thus, correcting every mistake – or ignoring them entirely – is missing out on an important opportunity to help your child learn even more effectively and succeed in greater measure down the line.


Image Courtesy: Pexels

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The author of this article is Issac Church.  The opinions expressed are the writer’s views. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Aesha’s Musings. Any omissions, errors are the author’s and Aesha’s Musings does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.


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