On Falling Down

I was skiing today, and having a lot of difficulty getting down the hill. My son Jasper was doing his best to help me with advice as I kept picking myself up: “Dad, this is the way you learn; you just keep falling down over and over again until you get the hang of it.”

What do we teachers do to make “falling down” in class OK? What do we do to encourage students to keep at it because falling down is more than just OK, it is the way to learn?

University courses typically have punitive, inhumane systems of grading, which consequently keeps students in a constant state of anxiety, totally counterproductive to learning. High schools are better, but could still improve the way they grade.

Mistakes are essential to learning, particularly in math and science. As John Wheeler used to tell his physics graduate students, “Make as many mistakes as you can, as fast as you can.” And correct them, of course, but the point is to get out there and do it.

(This post first appeared at my other (now deleted) blog, and was transferred to this blog on 25 January 2021.)