Learning from Errors

Posted: 19 Jan 2017

Date Written: January 2017


Although error avoidance during learning appears to be the rule in American classrooms, laboratory studies suggest that it may be a counterproductive strategy, at least for neurologically typical students. Experimental investigations indicate that errorful learning followed by corrective feedback is beneficial to learning. Interestingly, the beneficial effects are particularly salient when individuals strongly believe that their error is correct: Errors committed with high confidence are corrected more readily than low-confidence errors. Corrective feedback, including analysis of the reasoning leading up to the mistake, is crucial. Aside from the direct benefit to learners, teachers gain valuable information from errors, and error tolerance encourages students’ active, exploratory, generative engagement. If the goal is optimal performance in high-stakes situations, it may be worthwhile to allow and even encourage students to commit and correct errors while they are in low-stakes learning situations rather than to assiduously avoid errors at all costs.

Suggested Citation

Metcalfe, Janet, Learning from Errors (January 2017). Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 68, pp. 465-489, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2896719 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010416-044022

Janet Metcalfe (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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