Is it possible to learn from your mistakes? While there is evidence to the positive, there is also evidence suggesting that whether mistakes may teach you anything depends on genetic disposition as well as supervisors handling those mistakes. Apparently, it is of utter importance to see how things cannot work, what things are not like, and what you do not know. Through this negative knowledge, learning through errors may be achieved. In this book, the authors look at errors and their potentials for the learning process, as well as the sort of environment that does make a positive difference concerning these concepts.
While there seems to be a tacit agreement that errors are often the best teachers we do not have enough scientific evidence that this is really true and that people actually learn from errors. On the one hand we have evidence suggesting that it is possible (Mindnich, Wuttke & Seifried 2008) while, on the other hand, findings suggest that this does not necessarily occur but is – among other things – dependent on peoples’ genetic disposition (Klein et al. 2007) and the way that teachers or superiors deal with errors (Spychiger et al. 1998). As far as recent research is concerned there is evidence that the concept of negative knowledge (to know how things are not, do not work and what one does not know) is useful in describing the process of learning from errors (vgl. Oser & Spychiger 2005; Parviaeinen & Eriksson 2006, Gartmeier et al. 2008). According to this theory learning processes result from negative experience. To give this potential a chance to actually develop, human environments (schools, teachers, peers, superiors etc.) need to have a positive view of errors and to give sufficient and helpful support so learners realise what went wrong and learn new problem solving strategies.
Prof. Dr. Eveline Wuttke,
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Seifried,
University of Konstanz, Germany
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