Science of Learning Research Centre

PEN Principle #8 Embrace Error to Improve Learning

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Is it wrong to be wrong? Researchers say no

fact sheet – video – podcast

The well-known phrase ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try try again’ has been reinforced by Australian research which shows that is the best way to truly learn. fact sheet

PEN Principle #8 copyWhile the saying dates back some 200 years, researchers analysing the latest in neuroscience, cognitive psychology and educational expertise have reinforced the notion of learning from your mistakes.

The Embrace Error to Improve Learning message is among a series of new PEN Principles – Psychology, Education and Neuroscience – developed by Australia’s Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) to assist teachers, students and parents across the country. video

Research has shown that while most people shy away from their errors, in most situations learning from these mistakes will actually improve future performance.

SLRC researchers have found that error-based learning results in enhanced long-term outcomes for students, just as it does in the general population.

Practicing the things you find difficult, the things you make mistakes at – as opposed to the things you find easy – is the only way to gain ‘meta awareness’ of personal skillsets and advance performance from novice to an expert. podcast

The concept of productive failure highlights that the more a student struggles, or even fails, the more likely they will be to recall, transfer and apply that information to future learning

Research also shows that high performing students chase skilled improvements from informative failures rather than from short-term rewards.

Making mistakes is likely to lead to students’ asking important questions, enhance engagement and prime them for future learning.


About The SLRC

The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) was established in 2013, funded as an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with the vision to improve learning outcomes at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels through scientifically-validated learning tools and strategies. The SLRC brings together more than 100 neuroscientists, psychologists and education researchers from across the country, collaborating on programs to better understand learning, using a range of innovative experimental techniques and programs.