This morning I heard a report on the radio about business school students taking an improv course in order to improve their deal-making skills: http://www.npr.org/2012/12/05/166484466/it-s-improv-night-at-business-school They key point of the improv training is to learn to shift from a "yes, but" response to someone's idea to "yes, and." The beauty of "yes, and" is that it draws the person in rather than dismissing their ideas.
A shift from "yes, but" to "yes, and" should be a useful tool in teachin math too. Now I can imagine this response: "yes, but in math there are wrong answers and incorrect arguments, and we must correct these." Yes, and we must accept our students where they are and help our students revise and stretch their thinking.
This reminds me of a posting on the blog of middle school teacher Jose Vilson at http://thejosevilson.com/2012/09/20/rarely-use-the-word-wrong-and-other-helpful-bits-edutopia/#comments. Mr. Vilson says he rarely uses the word "wrong." Interestingly, he also refers to improv.
Perhaps also related, there is an interesting experiment from psychology about the value of affirming self-worth in the face of errors, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/choke/201212/when-you-screw-affirm-your-self-worth
"What the researchers found was quite interesting. Not only did folks who affirmed their self-worth beforehand make less errors than those who did not, but their brains seemed to be especially attuned to the mistakes they had made. It was almost as if self-affirmation allowed folks to be more receptive to their errors and correct for their mistakes.
The take-home? When faced with information about your failures, affirming your self-worth may help orient you to your mistakes. When you face your blunders head on, it seems that you are more likely to learn from them and do better the next time around."
What I would like to learn about and think about is how to take a "yes, and" approach to teaching math while also acknowledging errors as such and giving grades that accurately reflect my honest professional judgement about how well students understand the course material. Are these things in conflict or not? Thoughts? Advice?