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Learning from mistakes

    Nothing is as anti-learning as the frantic effort to avoid making mistakes, because an exaggerated fear of making mistakes and, even more so, an ill-considered punishment of mistakes inhibit every form of development. Without analysing the causes, mistakes are automatically equated with inattention, failure and incompetence. Such a culture of mistakes, however, educates less to greater diligence than to fearfulness and despondency, which then promote avoidance and hedging behaviour. Fear and pressure create spreading restlessness and excitement in the human brain, which then become effective as inner tension, so that people avoid any experiments or new things. In this way, however, nothing new can be learned and anchored in the brain. In the course of life, mistakes systematically contribute to the optimisation of our daily actions and often provide more insight than mere confirmation of expectations.

    According to educational researcher Gerd Gigerenzer, mistakes can motivate children rather than slow them down, because children become wiser from mistakes, i.e. they must be allowed to make mistakes and understand them. In his opinion, there are also “good” mistakes that are important for lasting learning, because mistakes are an opportunity for further development. Dealing with a mistake in the right way is absolutely crucial, because this is often the first way children realise how something just doesn’t work and how it can perhaps be done better or differently. Parents should therefore not teach children that mistakes are not allowed. But mistakes should never go unused either. Children are still taught too much according to the pattern that this is right, that is wrong or that there is always only one solution. Adults, due to their great advantage in lived experience, tend to become know-it-alls and then sometimes intervene hastily so that the child can progress. In reality, however, we deny the child the important experience that it sometimes takes several attempts before something succeeds, and that one is perfectly capable of finding the solution oneself (Stangl, 2022).


    Stangl, W. (2022, 7. September). Aus Fehlern lernen. News zum Thema Lernen.