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Children 'can learn more by focusing on their mistakes'

02/02/2017 Joanna

A new study has highlighted the importance of making sure children learn properly from mistakes in order to enhance their educational outcomes.

Research from Michigan State University has indicated that youngsters who believe intelligence can grow over time tend to pay more attention to and recover better from their mistakes more effectively than those who believe intelligence levels are fixed.

Published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, the study analysed the mindsets and the related brain workings of 123 children of an average age of seven, a time when most children are making the transition to formal schooling, meaning their outlooks have the most noticeable impact on their academic achievements.

Participants took part in a fast-moving accuracy task on a computer while their brain activity was recorded. It was shown that during the half-second after making a mistake, children's brain activity increased as they became more aware of what went wrong and started paying closer attention to the error.

Children with growth mindsets were revealed to be significantly more likely to have a larger brain response after making a mistake, showing they were more focused on the incident. This made them more likely to improve their performance on the task after making a mistake.

The study also showed that children with fixed mindsets were also able to bounce back after their mistakes, but only if they paid close attention to the errors, rather than following their instinct to refuse to acknowledge what went wrong.

As such, the researchers called on teachers to do more to help children pay attention to mistakes and learn from them, rather than shying away from or glossing over mistakes.

Hans Schroder, lead author on the study at Michigan State University's department of psychology, said: "The main implication here is that we should pay close attention to our mistakes and use them as opportunities to learn."

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