EARLI – Centre for Excellence in Research (E-CER) PROJECT

Errors as a Springboard for Learning: Towards a Theoretical Framework and Educational Implications
E-CER founding date: 1st of January 2024

This E-CER builds on a growing conversation within education, business, and workplaces about the potential benefits of attending, engaging and constructively responding to mistakes and errors. The ability to do this is argued to be vital for navigating today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.

Errors, mistakes and failures are integral parts of learning, and reflection on them can lead to creative and novel solutions and deeper learning. However, productively learning from errors is often not spontaneous. Instead, it needs to be supported by learning environments in which “being wrong” is not only tolerated but encouraged, and mistakes are recognised as learning opportunities.

Our E-CER will draw on different research perspectives related to mistakes and errors in order to develop a theoretical framework to conceptualise, analyse and promote the constructive use of errors, mistakes and failure for personal growth within error friendly learning environments. We hope that by disseminating our theoretical framework and discussing its implications for good practice, we can draw attention to the critical importance of learning from errors and the strategies for attaining it.

The E-CER follows three key objectives.
First, we aim to facilitate an exchange of research perspectives, scientific ideas, methodological approaches, and measurement instruments among researchers broadly interested in learning from errors, mistakes and failures. We believe this exchange will also enhance understanding of the role of cultural and contextual factors shaping this learning and foster a more nuanced understanding of error management across diverse learning environments, which we can then apply to our second aim.

Our second aim is to combine existing theories, including those that traditionally sit outside the learning from errors and mistakes narrative, into a comprehensive framework that centres specifically on learning from errors and mistakes. This includes potentially integratingtheories on self-regulated learning, motivation, and academic emotions, which are all relevant for understanding how errors occur and are handled. Our goal is, where appropriate, to bring these theories together and create a framework for effectively managing errors and mistakes. Within this framework, we plan to pinpoint elements that influence both adaptive and maladaptive error management strategies.By creating a learning from errors framework and clarifying the relevant theories, we also plan to lay the groundwork for the future design of learning environments that meaningfully impact practice, where failure and risk-taking are supported in order to maximize their potential for improving learning, growth, and resilience.

Therefore, the third aim of the E-CER is to develop innovative approaches for good error management practice and to help foster error-friendly environments across a range of
settings. Based on the theoretical framework and existing empirical evidence, we will explore ways of turning our ideas and framework into actions (e.g., ideas for teacher training,
innovative pedagogies, events to communicate the benefits of errors, mistakes and failures for personal growth etc). These ideas will be part of our springboard for learning, which can
be tested and modeled in future projects.

E-CER Members:

  • Associate Professor Maria Tulis-Oswald
  • Associate Professor Maria Cristina Matteucci
  • Dr Gabriele Steuer

Additional named E-CER collaborators: 

  • Dr Annika Breternitz, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Ostwestfalen-Lippe, Institute for Science in Dialogue, Germany
  • Dr Nick Garnett, Psychology Department, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Associate Professor Elizabeth Peterson, School of Psychology,  University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Dr Annalisa Soncini, Department of Humanities, University of Ferrara, Italy