1st TODIE??? Seeing errors as a call to action

Deconstructing the cognitive processes involved in noticing and correcting an error is a great opportunity to become familiar with the layers of thinking an error provokes.

Here’s an example:

On first glance, I read the title of this James Patterson book as “1st TODIE”.  Since “1st TODIE” had no meaning to me, I was baffled. I went into error solving mode.


Here’s a charted deconstruction of that experience. As you can see, finding a solution to my error turned out to be a full body experience, with a physical response, an inner conversation, an imagined sound, and an image associated with each step of error solving process. (Note: In this format, it looks like a long process, but correcting the error actually took less than 3 seconds.)

Error Processes Physical Response of Error Process
Inner Thoughts of Error Process Image of Error Process
Imagined Sound of Error Process
1.Dissonance noted: What? Todie???? Jolting to a stop What’s a Todie? This doesn’t make sense! stop-2 Screeching tires
2.Problem solving begins Webbing connections of what I know, what I expected and potential solutions. What’s a Todie? Could it be pronounced Toddie? Should I reread? What else could it be? web Car trying to go forward, then  reversing, then turning
3.Arriving at a possible solution Pausing and reflecting on possibilities Hmmm…. it seems right, but does it make sense?  (a dotted, less than confident check)check Car accelerating cautiously
4. Checking to be sure the solution is accurate and matches the context Confident, relaxed Yes! That makes sense.  thumbs-up Car driving at speed

This exercise highlights the power of:

  • noticing the disequilibrium caused when things stop making sense
  • searching for information that re-establishes meaning
  • ensuring that the solution is meaningful; it fits the full context (mystery novel), not just the item (correct pronunciation)

We should be exposing learners of all ages to this sort of thinking.

So, give it a try. Put “The Power of Errors to Make Thinking Visible” on the agenda of your next professional conversation. To prepare, create a mind map (similar to the chart above or in a format of your choosing) of your error solving process. Share it with your peers and ask them to create a full body mind map of their error solving processes. The formats and content of each mind map will vary and will open up lively discussions about what it can look like, sound like, and feel like to notice and solve an error.

Next, take it to your classroom. When you stumble over a word, miscalculate an algorithm, or fail to demonstrate an effective pirouette, share the “error experience” with your students.

Then, ask the students to do the same thing.

The mind map of one of my graduate students connected his error to the physical response, sound, inner thoughts, and images of a poorly kicked soccer ball. This connection allowed him to understand what it felt like to make an error and how the error, in his words, “wasn’t just a mistake, it was a call to action”. Even at this late stage of his academic career, he was astounded by this new perspective on errors.

Learning to embrace an error as a “call to action” allows students to feel the potential of an error to develop a whole new perspective on problem solving.

For more conversations about education, please visit:Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education or contact us at Beyondtheapplecontact@gmail.com

About Beyond The Apple

Beyond the Apple provides everything a Professional Learning Community needs! Designed to follow Beyond the Apple's Tenets of Adult Education, our videos re-ignite the excitement of professional conversations among educators in the classroom, university, colleges and professional training. Our free teaching and learning resources provide a follow up with more information that is current, research based and practical.
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