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Skills for the future: Risk being wrong

When schools talk about changing the way learning occurs to prepare students for the future, key components of this process are encouraging students to take risks and learn from their mistakes. When many parents went to school, myself included, there seemed to be a greater focus on right and wrong answers.

Kathryn Schulz, an author in the U.S.A, has gained some notoriety in the literary and academic world over the last couple of years. This is due to her book Being Wrong.

Kathryn has devoted her academic life to studying mistakes and wrong answers. She maintains that one of the problems with education and many aspects of life is that we misunderstand the importance of being wrong or making errors in our work. She believes that being wrong isn’t a problem; rather it is how we feel or are made to feel about being wrong. I’ll let you think about the difference between the two.

As we move into the digital age of education and pushing human knowledge and experiences into unchartered waters, let us remember that invention very often happens by accident or as a result of trial and error. Some examples of this include…

  • Inventor Richard Jones, a naval engineer who was trying to make equipment designed to monitor power on naval battleships He was working with tension springs when one of them fell to the ground and kept bouncing after it hit the ground. The slinky was born!
  • Sir Alexander Fleming threw away some of his experiments when he found what he was looking for. Fleming noticed that a contaminated petri dish contained a mould that was dissolving all the bacteria around it. When he grew the mould by itself, he learned that it contained a dominant antibiotic, penicillin!

We must remember and remind our students that the journey to success is more character building when we have truly earned it. When we see children embarrassed about being wrong or making mistakes, remind them of this and look for the successful learning and character development that came out of the process. Not being right all of the time is just a normal part of education.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas Edison

Jason Fay
Director of Learning
St Paul Lutheran School

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