For his first point, Sivers states that “to learn effectively, [one must] make mistakes” and provides research evidence that “mistakes teach better than preparation.” For his second point, Sivers states that a growth mindset is the perception that talent is derived from hard work and not innate talent. Sivers compares a growth mindset to a fixed one in which a fixed mindset believes that you are set in you abilities while a growth mindset believes that “anyone can master anything.” He provides some evidence that fixed mindsets are harmful for growth because it relegates the believer into psychologically accepting his/her limitations which leads to quitting. Sivers asserts that mindsets can be easily changed through how we encourage others, especially in regards to children. To foster a growth mindset, the language needs to shift from “you are perfect and a natural genius” to “you worked very hard on this and you’ve shown great improvement.” For his final point, Sivers states that experiments are a critical component of growth which eschews failure in favor of discovery. Sivers posits that everything we do is merely an experiment, a different version of how do it. In the end, no one really fails because there’s always a different way to do it again.
I have seen this in action in my clinical practice Biology classroom. For our most recent unit, the students are learning about DNA transcription and translation. The entire process is equivalent to learning a new written language with only 5 total letters and simple coding rules. During the first quiz, the students were asked to transcribe a sequence of DNA into RNA. On the first quiz, the students had an 80% pass rate. Frankly, this is a great result, but my cooperating teacher wanted the entire class to master the material in order to use that knowledge for their DNA projects next week. The students reviewed their results and corrected their mistakes during this same period. On the next day, the students were given another quiz which asked them to transcribe a different DNA strand into RNA and then translate the RNA strand into a sequence of amino acids. The translation of RNA into amino acids is like deciphering a code, and the students needed to use a chart to do so. On this second quiz, almost all the students mastered the transcription component but had an 75% percent pass rate on the translation component. The students reviewed again the same period. Undaunted, my cooperating teacher decided to give one final quiz the next day which asked the students to, once again, transcribe and translate. Over 90% of the students demonstrated mastery of the material with no mistakes on any component on this third quiz. While the students groaned a bit about this third quiz, many of them were exceptionally happy in regards to their improvements. While I do not propose to give quizzes like this as a predominant way of teaching, I do believe that mistakes are an integral component of learning as long as a opportunities for review and improvement accompany those mistakes.
Failure can and is always an option. How can we better than we were yesterday if we never try again?
Sivers, D. (2011, February 15). Why You Need to Fail - by Derek Sivers [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HhxcFGuKOys