The instructions on my online Japanese homework read: “you will lose points if you make too many mistakes.”

I’m sorry?

Isn’t that how we learn?

By making mistakes?

And how many mistakes is too many? It doesn’t matter if a kid falls off his bike 500 times. Give them the chance to get back on 512 times, if that’s what it takes to teach him how to ride a bike.

I understand that this is to discourage students from doing badly on purpose. That’s called brute-force cheating, and it doesn’t teach students anything besides how to cheat.

But what if instead of penalizing students for making mistakes, we encouraged them to make as many mistakes as they need?

This problem wouldn’t exist if we designed courses that were impossible to cheat. As long, of course, as we also encourage them to understand why it matters to make mistakes.

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