The option of making mistakes, in fact, creates the conditions for the development of more effective learning, since failed hypotheses are nothing more than a resource for making the teaching-learning process of which we are part smoother, for both learners and teachers.
Mistakes, then, are also linked to creativity. Faithfully following the paths traced by others may be reassuring, it may spare us failures, but learning also passes along unexplored, less linear and more tortuous routes.
It is no coincidence that Latins coined the phrase that ‘errare humanum est’. And who is erring? Those who walk along untrodden paths, those who do not have pre-set benchmarks that force us to use cognitive resources that we have gained as pre-established mindsets.
It is interesting, in this sense, to look also at the etymology of the term ‘education’ (from Latin ex-ducere), which has a twofold meaning.
In the token sense, it refers to the meaning of leading, of leading towards a purpose. It is from this connotation that perhaps the prevailing educational model derives according to which: “whoever has knowledge leads whoever does not have knowledge (out of ignorance)” along known paths.
But the verb educate also expresses another meaning, perhaps a lesser known one: that of leading away, leading aside, recalling the notion of being carried away, led beyond paths that have already been traced. This is a prospective that retrieves an educational system referring it to the need to consider errors and failures in a dimension of acceptance and not as signs of incompetence to be condemned, to be eliminated, or worse, to be punished.
Making mistakes is human; continuing to commit new ones is perhaps even more so. Any success story – from the child who stands up and takes his first steps, to expeditions to the moon, to the publication of Harry Potter books – is the result of a path strewn with mistakes, stumbling stones and bitter disappointments.