It’s an idea that makes intuitive sense but is simultanesouly unappealing to most people. I, for one, don’t like it. What’s more, it flies in the face of the “self-esteem” orientation that has dominated much of educational theory and practice over the last several decades. And yet, research summarized in a recent issue of Scientific American Mind is clear: people learn the most when conditions are arranged so that they have to make mistakes. Testing prior to learning, for example, improves recall of information learned after failing the pre-test regarding that same information. As is well known, frequent testing following learning and/or skill acquisition significantly enhances retention of knowledge and abilities. In short, getting it wrong can help you get it right more often in the future.
So, despite the short term risk to my self-esteem, “error-centric learning” is an evidence-based practice that I’m taking to heart. I’m not only applying the approach in the trainings I offer to mental health professionals–beginning all of my workshop with a fun, fact-filled quiz–but in my attempts to master a completely new skill in my personal life: magic and mind reading. And if the number of mistakes I routinely make in these pursuits is a reliable predictor of future success, well…I should be a master mind reading magician in little more than a few days.
Enough for now–back to practicing. Tonight, in my hotel room in Buffalo, New York, I’m working on a couple of new card tricks. Take a look at the videos of two new effects I recorded over the weekend. Also, don’t miss the interview with Cindy Voelker and John Catalino on the implementation of Feedback-Informed Treatment (FIT) at Spectrum Human Services here in Buffalo.