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Learn: Mistakes are opportunities.

When mistakes are harmful

Below are three common ways we allow mistakes to hurt our learning process:

1. We get discouraged.

We make a mistake and interpret that mistake as a sign that we don’t have potential. It triggers our fixed mindset voice, and we get frustrated or give up.
What do you think would have happened if Herman had sat at home discouraged after his test, not doing anything about his first bad grade?
Discouraged brain

2. We don't reflect on our mistakes and don’t own up to our mistakes.

We sometimes find it so unpleasant to think about our mistakes that we don’t spend time reflecting on why they happened. This is a huge wasted opportunity. We need to realize that mistakes are useful signals that point us to the missing pieces in our current understanding.
What do you think would have happened if Herman hadn't reviewed the questions he missed on the retake, and thus hadn't realized that he did poorly on the test not because he didn't know the material but because he rushed?
Nonreflecting brain.

3. We avoid taking risks or doing tasks we've made mistakes in before.

We avoid situations where we might make mistakes because we find the idea of making mistakes so unpleasant. Unfortunately, this means that we avoid the situations where we’re most likely to learn.
What if Herman had given up on history altogether?
Risk-avoiding brain

When mistakes are helpful.

People who are cultivating a growth mindset take a different, more positive view of mistakes. They view mistakes as valuable—not as something negative or something to be embarrassed by— and take time to learn from them.
Let’s hear from Dave Travis about making mistakes and why they sometimes can be good for our brain growth.
Khan Academy video wrapper
LearnStorm Growth Mindset: Khan Academy's test prep content creator on mistakesSee video transcript
Dave touches on something that we oftentimes don’t realize. Once you’ve made one mistake and fixed it, it doesn’t mean that you won’t make more mistakes. Sometimes we make different types of mistakes on the same topic over and over. If we are making the same mistake over and over, it can help us know that it's time to change our learning strategy.
In the next part of this activity, we will review more examples of when mistakes are learning opportunities and reflect on how we can begin to identify and learn from our own mistakes .
You have completed part 2 of 3 for this activity: Learn!

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