‘Mistakes are the portals of discovery’  James Joyce

In Touchstone Blended Learning, students’ mistakes are ‘exposed’ in several ways.  Most obviously, you’ll be able to see and hear their mistakes in the classroom.  In addition you’ll be able to use Student Progress in Teacher Reports from your home page and their posts in the Web 2.0 tools in the LMS.

So really, there is nowhere for their mistakes to hide but what discoveries can we make from all of this?  In Student Progress, it is possible to see your student’s results from each individual activity.  You don’t see their mistakes per se but you see the score.  The fact that you can’t see the mistake is not important.  When you see that a student has a low score, hover over the Learning Outcome and it will show you what the purpose of the exercise was.  This will inform how you plan subsequent lessons as well as help you advise the student on the best course of action for them to take to improve.

When we write or speak in another language there are different kind of mistakes we produce.  Mistakes of distraction happen when we’re rushing or not paying enough attention to what we’re doing.  Mistakes of lack of understanding happen when we don’t know the rules or the words.  Both are useful for the learning and teaching process.  If your learners are making inconsistent mistakes around a point of grammar for example that show that they do not understand what they have done in class, you can either direct them to the supplementary resources in the LMS or ask them to do the relevant section of the online course or plan a review into your next class.

If it is clear to you that your students understand the rules but are making mistakes here and there, this is your chance to institute some self correction measures.  Give them a short form like the self evaluation example here to prompt them to review their work and train them to do this every time before they post something or hand something in.  Alternatively, you can ask them to use the same form to evaluate a partner’s work and train them to give constructive diplomatic feedback.  In this way, the discovery is not so much seeing that they have made a mistake but realise that they can correct themselves and make decisions about what they need to study next and what they need to review again.

All this is sounding like a lot of work.  Don’t forget that not every mistake needs to be corrected and that this can be counterproductive as students may lose confidence and end up demotivated.  If in class you focussed on the present perfect, then when correcting or reviewing work, focus on the present perfect.  If you looked at the organisation of a text, then focus on students’ organisation and don’t worry about spelling and punctuation.  In this way you will be able to more clearly evaluate your students’ learning lesson by lesson and give them positive feedback and more specific suggestions for improvement.  It will also save you a lot of time!

It is true that we learn from our mistakes, as well as those of others, but we can also learn from what we do well.  Highlight this in class.  While it is tempting to always look at mistakes as areas of potential improvement, it’s also important to recognise achievement to help boost confidence and a sense of ‘being able to do this.’

Try this with your learners and let us know how they respond.