Mistake Of The Week

There are many ways to configure the physical environment of a classroom to support children’s learning. Display is often abused and there is plenty of research to say what we should and shouldn’t do.

Knowing what to display is something we need to give careful thought to.

One idea is to devote a board to Mistake of the Week. This is suggested in Guy Claxton and Becky Carlzon’s (2019) new book Powering Up Children and the Learning Power Approach (LPA).

They say that a growth mindset classroom puts a positive spin on mistakes and sees them as learning opportunities. They suggest creating a display which “celebrates the most interesting or intelligent mistake made that week – by a child or an adult.”

Claxton and Carlzon also suggest we encourage children to volunteer their own mistake or nominate each other.

It’s an interesting idea but I’ve done something similar but called it ‘Alternative Conceptions of the Week’

I don’t think it always helpful to see children’s learning as ‘mistakes’ because ideas are organic and they are a pupil’s attempt to make sense of the world. Understanding constantly changes and evolves rather than being closed and complete.

I prefer ‘alternative conceptions’ to misconception because, like ‘mistake’, it appears to delineate a fixed boundary between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ thinking. ‘Alternative conceptions’ is more in line with a growth mindset because we aren’t saying that what someone is thinking is wrong or mistaken but a different way of thinking. It could be an idea in embryo or something ‘off piste’. We are also saying that there is more than one way of thinking.

I’ve always used Concept Cartoons as a way of displaying alternative ways of thinking to draw out different viewpoints and worldviews. These have the distinct advantage of being inclusive where all views and opinions are seen as stepping stones towards a fuller understanding of something.

Children like looking at and discussing concept cartoons because quite often their thinking is represented as part of the conversation. It also makes this a safe context to talk about ideas without fear. Concept cartoons therefore make perfect tools for having learning conversations where the aim is for everyone to upgrade their knowledge and understanding through discussion, debate, argumentation and problem-solving.

So, ‘Mistake of the Week’ sounds like a nice idea but it doesn’t go far enough and can still have negative connotations even in a growth mindset culture. Alternative conceptions lets everyone know that their views matter.

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