Student Mistakes..That’s the Way it’s Supposed to be

I enjoyed reading two articles from the NSTA Reports February 2015 and thought a brief summary of each would be a good idea for a post. Also just hashing out some of my thoughts on them.

After reading the article “Helping Students View Mistakes as Progress” in the NSTA Reports February edition, I decided that I needed to revisit my strategies when it comes to “mistakes”. I tell my students all the time that mistakes aren’t bad in my classroom, you learn from them. But I think I need to show it a little better. This article does a good job in talking about how “mistakes or rather the wrong results are part of science”. Ms. Bigelow who is behind the Ms. Mentor column does a good job talking about how “kids get the impression that if things are not perfect they will not get a good grade”. That made me stop and think yep, exactly what I think my students believe.  I do believe I allow my students opportunity to learn from their mistakes but I think I need to encourage more discovery into why they made the mistake. One teacher suggested “pre-assignments” which I’ve thought about before and I will probably revisit.

It’s just as hard on teachers, we have a tendency we don’t want to make mistakes in front of students. Students see this and it becomes a norm.  I do admit my mistakes with students, example if a lab didn’t work as well as it should have, or a project wasn’t as good as it could have been. Once I admit this to the class they see me as human, and are not afraid to admit they made a mistake. I also turn it into a great collaborative opportunity for the class. I ask the students to give feedback on how I can improve it or change the activity to fit their needs.

The rest of the article references a professor at a school of education. He describes his classroom as an environment safe for mistakes. Meaning he is teaching his students to create environments safe and comfortable for students to make mistakes in their classroom. This article does a good job with this topic I think. Something I’m already thinking about.

Another article I found interesting in the February edition was the Ms. Mentor column. This is the advice column. I really liked the advice she gave a teacher who was trying to implement inquiry into their class. The teacher was frustrated because the students only wanted to “stick with cookbook labs”. Very rigid and organized activities. I sympathize with this teacher. When I first implemented some of the Flipping 101 strategy my students were not happy. As the columnist responds, we are creatures of habit! to introduce something different can wreak havoc on people. The advice she gives this teacher is pretty sound. Take it slow, this goes for flipping also. Work with students introducing them to the different skills. Explain to them why you are doing it and what it is all about. I did this when I first introduced flipping and I taught students how to use the videos. Now, if I don’t put up a video they request one. The inquiry part of this article is really good and something I really do want to implement in class. Ms. Mentor actually wrote a blog post on “Cookbook to Inquiry”.  I’ve read it and it does really good job in helping teachers change a cookbook lab to an inquiry lab.

This month’s NSTA reports was pretty good and taking the time out to read it gave me some ideas to try out in class. Glad I finally got a chance to read it this month.


About rippie77

Science Teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School, Raleigh NC.

Posted on February 17, 2015, in Article, NSTA, STEM, Teacher Strategies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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