In the realm of education we are beginning to understand the importance that mistakes play in the learning process thanks to the work centered around growth mindset.  Recent research has even shown that mistakes grow the brain even if the mistake is never corrected.  To borrow a quote from Jo Boaler’s Youcubed website:

When teachers ask me how this can be possible, I tell them that the best thinking we have on this now is that the brain sparks and grows when we make a mistake, even if we are not aware of it, because it is a time of struggle; the brain is challenged and the challenge results in growth.

How do I get students to develop a growth mindset?

When developing a growth mindset, it is important to teach students the value of making mistakes.  Students must understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process and that synapses in the brain fire when mistakes are encountered.

This leads to an interesting predicament where educators feel the need to celebrate mistakes.  Although these are important to growth and essential to the learning process, mistakes are not what needs to be celebrated.  Failure is not what teachers strive for.  Instead, teachers desire for students to challenge themselves and to take the risks that often lead to mistakes.  The next time you emphasize the importance of mistakes, try emphasizing the risk it took to try something where success was not a guarantee.

Instead of valuing failure, students will learn to value risk-taking and the opportunities for growth it will allow.