When teachers make mistakes, it's a learning moment for everyone

Recently, I attended an excellent interview with Lynda Weinman, founder of Lynda.com. She sold Lynda.com to LinkedIn in 2015 for $1.5 billion.

Today, Lynda is creating 3D printed pottery. It combines tactile art with plenty of programming.

There were two reflection points she made that I thought were outstanding and transferable. This post involves reflecting on mistakes.

One of the great qualities of a teacher is an ability to reflect on mistakes made. The process sounds so simple, but it’s very difficult to do in practice. Lynda is a master at this and includes a section on mistakes in her blog.

  • Identify the mistake made in a very specific way. Detail exactly what lead to the undesired outcome.

  • Identify exactly what you’ll do to avoid this mistake in the future. Sometimes this is built into the above statement.

  • Optional: detail what you can do to make a more positive outcome when this type of mistake occurs.

An example that follows this formula from this recent blog post:

Mistake #4: Do not trim the base when the clay is too wet. Wait a day or two for it to become a lot more stiff, but not leather hard. Lesson learned: When the vase falls over and becomes lopsided, squish it so it looks like that was your intent.

My students have always loved moments when it looks like I’m struggling, when I make a mistake in coding, or make other mistakes in class. It’s always an excellent teachable moment. Learning how to identify those mistakes and fix them is really important, but it’s rarely something covered in the curriculum. Instructors think they look “stupid” for making mistakes when teaching. This isn’t true. It’s encouraging to students to know that the teacher doesn’t have superpowers. Everyone struggles sometimes. The difference is the teacher struggles less than the student.

Jen Kramer @jen4web