Tip #600: Making the Best Mistakes- Part Four

“To get profit without risk, experience without danger, and reward without work, is as impossible as it is to live without being born.” A. P. Gouthey

According to Eduardo Briceno, the CEO of Mindset Works, there are four types of mistakes that are most useful in the learning process. These four mistakes are: stretch mistakes, aha-moment mistakes, sloppy mistakes and high-stakes mistakes.

This Tip will focus on the fourth and last type of mistake: high-stake mistakes, as described by Mr. Briceno:

“Sometimes we don’t want to make a mistake because it would be catastrophic.

For example, in potentially dangerous situations we want to be safe:

  • A big mistake from the person in charge of security in a nuclear power plant could lead to a nuclear disaster.
  • We don’t want a … bus driver to take a risk going too fast making a turn, or a [rider] in that bus to blindfold the bus driver.

In those cases, we want to put processes in place to minimize high-stakes mistakes.

We also want to be clear with students about why we don’t want the risk-taking behavior and experimentation in these situations, and how they’re different from learning-oriented tasks.

Aside from life-threatening situations, we can sometimes consider performance situations to be high-stakes. For example:

  • if going to a prestigious college is important to someone, taking the SAT could be a high-stakes event because the performance in that assessment has important ramifications; or
  • if a sports team has trained for years, working very hard to maximize growth, a championship final can be considered a high-stakes event.

It is okay to see these events as performance events rather than as learning events, and to seek to minimize mistakes and maximize performance in these events. We’re putting our best foot forward, trying to perform as best as we can.

How we do in these events gives us information about how effective we have become through our hard work and effort.

Of course, it is also ok to embed learning activities in high-stakes events that don’t involve safety concerns. We can try something that is beyond what we already know and see how it works, as long as we realize that it may impact our performance (positively or negatively).

And of course, we can always learn from these performance events by afterwards reflecting and discussing how things went, what we could do differently next time, and how we could adjust our practice.

In a high-stakes event, if we don’t achieve our goal of a high test score or winning the championship, let’s reflect on the progress we’ve made through time, on the approaches that have and haven’t helped us grow, and on what we can do to grow more effectively.

Then let’s go back to spending most of our time practicing, challenging ourselves, and seeking stretch mistakes and learning from those mistakes.

On the other hand, if we achieve our target score or win a championship, that’s great. Let’s celebrate the achievement and how much progress we’ve made.

Then let’s ask ourselves the same questions. Let’s go back to spending most of our time practicing, challenging ourselves, and growing our abilities.

We’re all fortunate to be able to enjoy growth and learning throughout life, no matter what our current level of ability is. Nobody can ever take that source of fulfillment away from us.”

My most recent high-stakes performance situation began when I submitted a proposal to design 35 days of curriculum for a federal agency- and then actually won the contract and had to deliver on what I said I could do. Talk about challenging myself. I have learned so much about what works and what doesn’t work for me in a long-distance curriculum design project.

How about you?

May your learning be sweet.


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