How should instructors handle their own mistakes?

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Episode 603: Punch you Texas State University

Some people think of mistakes as a sign of failure, indicating that you don’t know the material – or worse, that you are just not that smart. Other people think more in terms of mistakes being inevitable and therefore normal – even helpful, in that they show where you need to improve. How should instructors handle their own mistakes?

September 20, 2019

Pedagogy Content
Coping with frustration
Physics Content
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (4 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(0 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(430 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What do you notice in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what stood out to you.
  2. Craig says Dustin is free to show the relative lengths of the normal and gravitational forces arbitrarily (line 11), but Dustin (initially) disagrees. What is his objection? Do you think he is right?
  3. What is “the whole reason” that Dustin “likes doing this” (line 14)?
  4. What do you think is going on with Dustin addressing his father in line 21?
  5. Dustin relates a sequence of difficult events that occurred while he was teaching. What happened? Retell the story in your own words.
  6. Profanity is often used to convey emotion, especially anger, frustration, and surprise; it can also add humor, emphasis, or shock value. What do you think is the function of the profanity that Dustin uses? How would his story be different if it lacked profanity?
  7. What does this episode suggest about how instructors should handle their own mistakes?

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