Why do some people not learn from their mistakes? It seems that some people are doomed to have history repeat itself and end up repeating their errors. The notion that ‘mistakes help you learn’ is a well-worn phrase but isn’t always true. Mistakes can help you learn, but only if we teach students to use them properly.
Being a good learner is a key ingredient in getting better. It has been associated with helping students develop resilience, motivation, mindset and more. Learning from failures provide a rich source of feedback that can help students learn. This is not to say we want students to fail more, but we do want them to fail better.
So how do we help students fail better and learn more from their mistakes? Introducing the Triple A’s of learning….
Acknowledge your mistakes
Failure to acknowledge your mistakes means you deprive yourself the chance to learn from them. People do this for a range of reasons, such as not wanting to be embarrassed by their mistakes (possibly from having a fixed mindset), being unaware of they have made a mistake (an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect), because they have high levels of fear of failure or they are more focused on blaming others instead of taking personal responsibility.
As the American writer and publisher Elbert Hubbard once remarked, “real failure is a man who has blundered and not cashed in on the experience”. Acknowledging your mistakes is the first step to rectifying them.
Ask for advice
Who can you ask for feedback from? Whose opinion do you really trust? Unfortunately, many people are not taught how to ask for feedback. This means that some of the feedback that they receive suffers. Just as important as it is to ask for feedback, people have to be able to receive it as well.
Action the feedback
It is not enough to know what you need to do, you have to go out there and do it. There is a huge chasm between knowing what you need to do and actually doing it. This is essentially the difference between good intentions and real behaviour. After all, goals without action are just dreams.
We tell all the students we work with that it is ok to make mistakes. Just don’t make the same one twice. By following the Triple A of Learning From Your Mistakes, hopefully we can help our students learn from their mistakes and so improve their performance.
Check out our page on how to develop a Growth Mindset if you want to know more.