Erase the eraser?

blog 030615A visiting professor at Kings College London has recently raised a few eyebrows by stating that erasers are the “instrument of the devil”, and should be banned from classrooms. Guy Claxton is the man behind this bold claim; he believes erasers encourage children to be ashamed about their mistakes.

The cognitive scientist from Kings College London believes that schools should encourage students to acknowledge their mistakes, not erase them and pretend it never happened. “It perpetuates a culture of shame about error. It’s a way of lying to the world which says ‘I didn’t make a mistake, I got it right first time’, that’s what happens when you can rub it out and replace it”.

Claxton believes that children need to see their own mistakes and learn from them in order to be prepared for the real world. It teaches life lessons allowing children to understand failure is not always a negative but a method to learn. This principle is already used in mathematics with children being marked not only on their answers but on their methods of getting to their final answer. So could this work for other subjects? Would it allow teachers to see the mistakes pupils are making and devise a plan to help?  John Coe, a spokesman for the National Association for Primary Education believes “the observation of children’s mistakes is essential to good teaching and teachers need to observe all the attempts children make so they can target instruction”.

This approach may seem to be a good idea, but for young children to be able to own up to a mistake is a huge step to make according to Dr Anthony Williams a Professor at Sheffield University. The expert in child psychology continued to say that “even as adults we sweep in and out of accepting our mistakes”. Would removing an eraser from a child’s pencil case just increase anxiety of possibly writing down the wrong answer and potentially being teased for it? Chris Stokel-Walker, freelance writer has questioned “what are the benefits in presenting children’s work warts and all?”  Will it aid their learning or just lower their motivation?

Claxton’s theory does raise an interesting point however where does the line get drawn with this? Should the delete keys on keyboards be taken away during ICT lessons as well? Claxton believes that being able to erase mistakes does not prepare you for the ‘real world’ yet aren’t we constantly making mistakes, revising them, erasing them and learning from them? What do you as teachers think? Have you say here…

5 thoughts on “Erase the eraser?

  1. Congratulations professor I believe that from error everyone starting to learn the correct way to think, to react, to act and to polish the correct way learning.rOverall in a classroom.

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  2. I discourage the use of erasers in my year 3 classroom. Children soend far to long erasing perceived errors often before the teacher can formatively assess their work. I encourage my pupils to put a line through an error and write the correction next to it.

  3. I agree whole-heartedly. I banned erasers from my Primary classrooms more than 12 years ago because I found that they impeded the thought processes of young children and prevented them from becoming confident writers.

  4. I have self made posters in my classroom that celebrate mistakes.
    My posters state the following: MISTAKES are OPPORTUNITIES also known as FEEDBACK
    TURN OOPS INTO OPPS! THANK YOU for FEEDBACK YAY! If a child scores 7 out if 10 in a tables test they know they have 3 opportunities to investigate strategies for improving tables knowledge in those specific areas .

  5. I practice the same thing in our pre school and i believe it really helps both the student and the teacher. Although this is the first time i came across the thought of the eraser being a devil’s instrument.

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