Getting it wrong is good

Something from France to think about which reminds me of Einstein’s observation that we have to fail forward if we are to learn. In our society failure is too often associated with weakness and poor character but it does not have to be that way.

The SMH reports that this week in Paris,  a group of educators and academics is hosting a ‘festival of errors’. The festival is an attempt to counter a national educational culture that is ‘results driven’ by encouraging students to make mistakes.

The organising group believe the current model of schooling is leaving children bereft of creativity, ideas and the ability to think critically.   Teachers who are eschewing the model are encouraging children to explore, take risks and persist in solving problems.

Part of the challenge we face as educators is finding flexibility within the constraints of a national curriculum and its focus on content and requirements.  In other words, making the connection from A to B as direct as possible.

It is the antithesis of what we know about today’s learners and only scratches the surface of developing an organic model of schooling that promotes flexibility, creativity and human error.

Where would the world be if Pasteur, Einstein and Fleming didn’t get it wrong. It took Eddison over 750 attempts to develop a light globe that could burn for long periods of time, aren’t we luck he didn’t give up at the 749th failed attempt!

6 thoughts on “Getting it wrong is good

  1. Nice post Greg,

    I agree whole-heartedly. It seems that society is obsessed with always getting it right and celebrating human error isn’t a part of most discourses, least of all those in education circles.

    For my part, I try to be proud of making mistakes in front of my students and modelling how I can learn from them. As a bit of a perfectionist, I struggle with this. But unless we embrace our mistakes, how will we ever really understand our purpose in the world?


    1. If we believe that education should develop a sense of wonder about the world, then perhaps we need an alternative curriculum. Key principles would be:

    2. trial and error are mandatory
    3. failures are shared – learning is celebrated
    4. students come first – process second
    5. learning is a journey not a destination
    6. We need to instill in all learners that making mistakes is the best form of feedback. As Disraeli said all successes are built on failures. The act of learning and re-learning is the success.

  2. Do you think we need to demonstrate greater tolerance of teachers in terms of the above too?

    I think back to the mistakes I’ve made in my professional life and they have been key learning moments for me as a teacher. Hmm… So often we write off a teacher for a comment or an approach yet fail to distinguish between a teacher who is learning from his or her mistakes and changes his or her approach or tactic or methodology for the better and the teacher who is “insane”. By this I refer to the saying that the definition of insanity is to repeat the same behaviours whilst expecting a different outcome.

    I’d be interested to know your thoughts here.

    1. I agree. Teachers can’t be expected to learn and re-learn unless they are able to critically reflect on what isn’t working. This carries an individual and collective responsibility to be reflective and open to a change of practice. This is something that we need to teach people how to do and to ensure the environment in which they work values this learning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.