Bad error correction methods

In a recent podcast, Elliot Temple described a mistaken approach to correcting mistakes on a philosophy discussion list: when someone had a problem with an email they wrote pointed out to them, they added it to a check list of things to check before sending each email. This quickly gets unwieldy.

This got me thinking of a similar mistake I was making in my Spanish learning. For some time, I was making flash cards for every mistake I made in the course of doing Spanish audio lessons. This was mistaken cuz some of the errors were a bit random (like forgetting to make an adjective feminine to agree with a particular feminine noun one time) and thus not great flash card material. Also even having it on the flash card biases my thinking cuz I know the flash cards are all stuff i made mistakes on. So then I am extra careful doing the flash cards, but still might make a similar mistake when doing the lessons. Also this approach generated too many flash cards.

I got pickier in terms of thinking which mistakes were worth putting on flash cards — stuff that was likely to come up repeated, such as new phrases or grammatically tricky constructions — and the usefulness of my Spanish Flashcards has improved accordingly.

I think the basic error here — the theme unifying the check list example and my flash card mistake — is a desire to make learning and error correction a more mechanical process and remove at least some of the thinking part. That is a fundamental error that will lead to frustration and ineffectiveness. Learning and error correction require active thinking.

P.S. I think this is the first blog post I’ve written entirely from the iOS WordPress app 🙂

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