In the Classroom Leadership Professional Learning
Maximize Errors to Change Mindset
January 9, 2017
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Michael Bradburn

Students and teachers are working hard in and out the classroom on a daily basis.  Teachers are spending extra time planning, preparing, and thinking about their students to make sure everything is as good as it can get.  They want to have the perfect lesson, perfect materials, and perfect management plan.  Students are putting forth extra effort to make sure they have the perfect essay, perfect notes, and perfect solutions to their problems.   It seems that teachers and students are striving for perfection when mistakes are the precursor to successful learning.

What if we all stopped trying to be perfect and start learning from our errors?

Teachers naturally want to perform well and do an exemplary job in the classroom.  We want our students and co-workers to see us as amazing!  We put forth so much effort trying to achieve greatness that we may be missing great learning opportunities.  The effort and mistakes we make could lead us to learning new lessons or deepening our understanding.  Dwek’s idea of a growth mindset can have an impact on collaboration and teacher growth.  If a teacher has a fixed mindset, they may view the success of others as a failure of their own.  They see weakness in making mistakes or they may not try to implement new ideas because of the fear of failure of making a mistake.  When someone achieves great things, that makes teachers with a fixed mindset feel discouraged or inadequate.  Teachers with a growth mindset are more likely to share ideas and collaborate because the conversations could lead to both teachers learning.  They are more likely to try, and sometimes fail, at new strategies or ideas because they believe the failure leads to learning.  Teachers should be encouraged to see others’ success as a way to grow, collaborate, and share information to have an impact on all learners.

This translates directly to students.  Students may want to impress their teachers and peers.  The growth mindset can encourage learners to see their mistakes and the success of others as a way to grow and learn.  These students will often embrace challenges and risk failure to grow.  When teachers push their students to complete difficult tasks that they may not know how to solve, they can push them to try new strategies or require them to depend on peers for help and support.  In addition, teachers can become more aware of areas to reteach and focus instruction when errors occur and identified by students.

Everyone has the desire to be successful, but success often comes after a long line of mistakes and errors.


Michael is an Instructional Coach at Alcoa Elementary School. He has been an educator for 11 years. He received the East Tennessee PreK-4 Teacher of the Year in 2014 and the Wal-Mart teacher of the year in 2004. Michael is currently working on the Tennessee Standards Mathematics Review Committee and as a Teacher Partner in his school collaborating with teachers to impact student achievement. He was a Common Core Mathematics Coach in 2013. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor’s of Science and a Masters Degree in Child and Family Studies. He holds an Education Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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