This article identifies what it classifies as unforced errors – “self-generated performance gaps created by one or more subtle, counterproductive behaviours” – and challenges us to identify these tendencies and to examine ways to address them.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Careers, business studies, family studies

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What is an unforced error?
  • What are my unforced errors?
  • What steps can I take to alter them?

New Terminology:

Unforced error, counterproductive behavior

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Nobody’s perfect. We all have our tendencies that can exacerbate situations, inhibit our ability to problem-solve effectively and cause us to behave in ways that are perhaps not the best. Often, we are unaware of these “go-to” behaviours and habits. For that reason, we fail to understand how we might better ourselves until such time as a significant, usually negative, experience causes us to reflect. In other words, we inflict these situations on ourselves. They are not imposed on us by others. The old adage, “we can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we respond” has value here. We need to arm ourselves with self-knowledge by understanding our tendencies and our comfort zones and appreciating how these can both help and hurt us in various situations – be it on the job or in our personal lives.

This lesson will have the students, by examining and discussing this article, self-reflect. It will require them to apply that self-reflection by developing a plan to address their counterproductive behaviours and tendencies so that they can be more effective in whatever challenge or situation they may meet.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to indicate if they play tennis.
  • Ask those who indicated the do to explain the term “unforced error”.
  • Ask the students to explain how the term unforced error could apply to their behaviors and actions.
  • Once this brief discussion has been completed, provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.
  • Hold a brief plenary session to get reactions to what they have just read.
  • Have the students take few moments to write down what they think their unforced errors might be.
  • With this completed, pair up the students and have them share their material with their partner.
  • Once this has been completed, have the pairs discuss what steps might be taken to correct those identified unforced errors.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have the pairs report back to the class and discuss reactions to what they have heard.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Explain how unforced errors can interfere with productivity and effectiveness;
  • Identify their unforced errors;
  • Offer suggestions as to how those unforced errors could be corrected.

Confirming Activity:

  • Ask the students, for homework, to list what they identified as their unforced errors and to outline what actions they are prepared to take to address them.