To Erase or Not Erase?

To Erase or Not Erase?

A cognitive scientist, Guy Claxton is campaigning to ban all erasers from classrooms.  He believes ‘erasers are an instrument of the devil’.

I did question this at first, but then reading on, I think he has a point.

If children rub out their mistakes, they can’t learn from them, they almost ‘hide’ from them.  I feel there’s a certain shame in making mistakes and that feeling is increased when children are encouraged to hide any errors they make.

Getting things wrong and making mistakes is a vital way people learn.  Having children rub out mistakes won’t stop mistakes being made, but it does send out a message that mistakes are something to hide, rather than to learn from.  Children shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, they should be able to see that they are improving and not just try to make their work look ‘the best’ as fast as possible.

One of the workshops we run is called ‘Maths Misconceptions’ and the aim is to use these misconceptions as learning points for the person who made the misconception as well as the whole class.

There used to be a poster I had on my classroom wall when I first started teaching, it said that “Cheating is pretending you understand when you don’t.”  It was an idea that so many of my students took quite a while to grasp, in that it seemed that looking at someone else’s work was the terrible work of ‘cheating’.  And it feels like it’s a similar mind-shift that needs to take place over the issue of making mistakes.

Whenever I’m out walking and find myself a little lost from my planned route, my favourite go-to quotation is “He who has never been lost has never been far” which is similar to Albert Einstein’s: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

And I do believe that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from success, another reason we shouldn’t tell children to hide their mistakes, but rather use them as a conversation starting point about what can be learnt.

The Telegraph published this article, if you wish to read more, click here.