Don't make the same mistake twice: Examining the relationship between memory for errors and learning
Loehr, Abbey Marie
Committing errors is a common part of the learning process, and current evidence suggests that committing errors can be beneficial for learning, at least for adults. Further, recent evidence in the adult cognition literature has shown that adults’ memory for errors they previously committed facilitates error correction. However, preadolescent children’s memory for past errors is likely less good than adults’, which may influence the relationship between memory for errors and error correction. In Study 1, preadolescent children studied and were tested on their memory for math definitions. After reviewing the correct answers, children recalled their initial test answers and took a final test. Children’s memory for errors was poor and much lower than expected. Although remembering a specific error did not facilitate later correction of that error, children who were better at remembering their past errors tended to correct more errors overall. These findings were replicated in Study 2. To ensure sufficient memory for errors, some children were reminded of their past errors along with the correct answers in Study 2. In two other conditions, children were either asked to recall their past errors as was done in Study 1, or studied the correct answers only. Providing reminders of errors and recalling past errors reduced error correction relative to studying correct answers only, suggesting feedback that includes errors may interfere with children’s learning. Together, findings from these two studies suggest that there are potential constraints on when memory for errors aids learning.