Monday, May 2, 2011

Giving Ourselves Permission to Fail

I don't much mind making mistakes. Perhaps that's why I'm comfortable taking risks.

I've been enjoying Steve Miranda's blog about Puget Sound Community School (titled Re-Educate Seattle), and especially liked his summary of an article on making mistakes

Just to give you an example, in one study I conducted a few years ago with my graduate student, Laura Gelety, we found that people who were trying to be good (i.e., those who were trying to show how smart they were) performed very poorly on a test of problem-solving when we made the test more difficult (either by interrupting them frequently while they were working, or by throwing in a few additional unsolvable problems).
“The amazing thing was, the people who were trying to get better (i.e., those who saw the test as an opportunity to learn a new problem-solving skill) were completely unaffected by any of our dirty tricks. No matter how hard we made it for them, students focused on getting better stayed motivated and did well.
It sounds like the people who were internally motivated  to solve the problems were able to keep their cool, while the people who just wanted to 'do well' got more and more frustrated. This is an important aspect of test-taking. I like solving problems, and I'm never too worried about how I do on a test. I try to help my students develop this sort of relationship to tests with my Math Relax audio track, but I don't know how effective it is.

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