Make More Mistakes!

Make More Mistakes!

Young boy dressed in school uniform holds books and looks stressed out, worried about making mistakes in class.


You read that right! We want our learners to make more mistakes.

There is a story about a professor who split his class into two large groups and both were instructed to work together to make ceramic pots. One group was assigned to focus on quantity while the other was told to focus on quality. In the end, who made a better ceramic pot?

The answer may not be what you expect… the QUANTITY group!

HOW? Repeated and Deliberate Practice!!!

“Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback,” Malcolm Gladwell.

More opportunities means more mistakes. More mistakes mean more opportunities to iron out the kinks.

“A person who makes few mistakes, makes little progress,” Bryant McGill.

We see it all the time with learners. They will spend so long trying to get one answer 100% correct, leaving no room for further responding. We call this behavior a fluency blocker. When a learner makes a mistake, only then are we able to teach. As Fit Learning’s founders say, “Mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities!”

Let’s talk more about the repeated and deliberate practice and fluency-based instruction.

“Won’t my student feel overwhelmed and bored if they do the same thing over and over?”

Our instructional methods are built around ensuring that learners are having FUN! We always start at the smallest possible skill that the learner struggles with to ease frustration and fully support them in being able to make the most academic growth possible.

“What is the value of fluency-based instruction?”

You REAPS what you sow!

REAPS stands for retention, endurance, application, and performance standards. Years of research supports the use of precision teaching and fluency-based instruction because it is shown to create REAPS.

“But what does REAPS mean?”

It means our methods of instruction have shown that students are able to retain, or keep the information we have taught them, even without continuing to practice daily. They can endure performing the skill for a longer length of time and they can apply the smaller level skills to a higher level or untrained skill.

“But how do I know these skills are moving my student to perform at the same level as their peers? How do I know that he or she is actually making gains overall instead of just focusing on smaller things that don’t seem to matter?”

Check out our blog post on progress monitoring for more information about how our instructional targets inform each student’s overall academic gains.

But what does making mistakes have to do with repeated practice?”

Excellent question!

Schools award grades. Sometimes, for students, the main take-away from grades is the importance of answering every problem CORRECTLY. (See our blog post about 100% isn’t good enough.) This can create a fear of trying and failing in some students.

Without trying and failing, we, as instructors, may not know which smaller skills need to be further developed. We learn how to best instruct by knowing which skill deficits to target.

“What if my student tries it multiple times and NEVER makes a mistake?”

That’s great news! BUT…

Are they not making mistakes because they are skipping hard words/problems?

Are they not making mistakes but performing at a slow pace?

Are they not making mistakes because they are consistently being prompted?

Our assessment methods test for these things.

Once we get learners to a point that they are able to perform a skill without mistakes, we then want them to begin performing the skill QUICKLY, or automatically.

“UGH! Why does everything have to be so fast-paced these days?”

The research tells us that when a skill is fluent (i.e., accuracy and speed are at a predetermined criteria), that skill becomes much easier for the student.

“Why do we want kids to read words quickly?”

Tests are often timed. If it takes you a long time to just read the passage, you will struggle then to read the questions and provide answers in the time allotted.

Think about some skills that you perform FLUENTLY. Skills that you NEED to be able to perform quickly:

Can’t quickly recognize the color red? Delay in pressing the brakes could mean fatal accidents on the road!

Can’t quickly read a sign? Delay in reading may cause you to miss your exit. UGH, what a Monday that would be!

Stumbling around tying shoes or a necktie? Now you are late for work.

Many things in life require us to be fluent and part of being fluent is being able to engage in behaviors quickly, without pausing to think first.

Don’t worry, it isn’t ALL about how fast you go!

Our fluency AIM accounts for comprehension, too. Research tells us that reading too quickly can take away from comprehension. We take that into account when setting goals for students.

“What’s the take-away?”

Let’s teach our kids that making mistakes can be good! Teach them the value of what we refer to as “not yets.” A mistake today, is growth for tomorrow. Teach your child the value of practicing something over and over!

You can only become the best, if you never give up! Make those mistakes, adjust, and do better!

Katie Harris, Outcomes Coordinator

“I have long had a passion for teaching and could be found telling my parents, “Watch out, you’re stepping on my students!” during imaginative play as a child. I enjoy getting to coach learners every day and laughing so hard that I cry with my amazing co-workers. I moved to St. Louis (from Thibodaux, Louisiana) about 2 years ago. I love reading books, going for walks around the lake, eating mochi, drinking bubble tea and watching murder mystery shows on Netflix.”

In addition to her role as Outcomes Coordinator, Katie Harris is a certified learning coach in math, reading, logic, and ‘lil fits. She earned her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Lindenwood University. A career highlight for Katie was presenting an academic poster at Women in Behavior Analysis – WIBA 2019!