Errors are vital to the learning process

A central point in Book - Make it stick.. the science of successful learningBook - Make it stick.. the science of successful learning


author: Peter C. Brown
title: Make it stick: the science of successful learning

is that making errors is essential in the learning process and the "effortless learning" advocated by Skinner and our modern education system is unproductive. As long as there is corrective feedback, errors do not harm learning.

Newer evidence states the importance of making errors in the learning process, e.g.

Huelser, Barbie & Metcalfe, Janet. (2011). Making related errors facilitates learning, but learners do not know it. Memory & cognition. 40. 514-27. 10.3758/s13421-011-0167-z. 

Evidence also suggests that Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution enhances learningTrying to solve a problem before being taught the solution enhances learning
Another counterintuitive point (see [[The most effective learning strategies are not intuitive]]) from [[Book - Make it stick.. the science of successful learning]]: Being asked to solve a problem ...
, and in that environment, errors are nearly guaranteed.

Furthermore, people that accept that learning is a struggle that involves failures are more likely to keep tackling tough challenges (there should be mountains of evidence here), and the opposite is also applies: Students that fear making errors use up a large portion of their working memory on performance monitoring, decreasing their overall performance on a given task.

The book mentions a famous study about French sixth graders, where those who were instructed that failure is a necessary and acceptable part of learning fared significantly better in solving anagrams.

F. Autin & J. C. Croziet, Improving working memory efficiency by reframing metacognitive interpretation of task difficulty, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 141 (2012), 610– 618

If we look at the concept of beneficial failure in a more abstract context, we can see how hypothesis driven sciences (Popper) and entrepreneurship in the spirit of the "lean startup" are both actively driven by failing in order to gain knowledge.

As the book puts it:

It’s not the failure that’s desirable, it’s the dauntless effort despite the risks, the discovery of what works and what doesn’t that sometimes only failure can reveal.