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Nate’s Notes 62: Eric Bettinger | Learn To Be Wrong

By April 3, 2023June 8th, 2023No Comments

Eric Bettinger

Professor at Stanford University

Eric Bettinger | Stanford Graduate School of Business

I always love learning from people who embody the lessons they share, and Eric Bettinger did that in this episode. Such great lessons from Eric.


Learn to be wrong. Eric’s most cited, impactful research has been impactful in ways he never expected. His work showed that college remediation wasn’t effective. He hit the speaking tour, argued with policymakers and academics, and stood by his data…until he got new data. And then he went back to all the same people and acknowledged that the new data told a different story. Because of his willingness to humbly share the new data, others were able to build on his work. And now this one paper of Eric’s has become the genesis for an entire field of research that 100s of other people are now building and innovating on. For example, researchers at RAND and UT Dallas found that by embedding developmental education into regular assignments, students are able to develop skills without getting set back. Because Eric learned to be wrong, an entire field of research has become infinitely more impactful than his single paper even could have been.


Be humble when you teach. As Eric meets with national and international policy makers, he’s learned that he has a much greater impact when he adopts the mindset of “Let’s work together” rather than “Let me tell you how it’s done.” By starting with humility, Eric develops partnerships that last for decades. And by humbly working together, Eric’s clients build capacity, and then are able to teach others “tricks on the bike” that even Erik would never expect.

In summary we should be humble, both when we learn and when we teach. This empowers others to build on our work and as a result, we have an infinitely greater impact.

It’s a simple idea. Please take it seriously.

Eric Bettinger Bio:

Eric Bettinger is a professor in the Stanford University School of Education, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He’s the Director of the Center for Educational Policy Analysis and a Co-Director at the Lemann Center for Brazilian Education at Stanford. His research interests include student success and completion in college, the economics of education, the impacts of financial aid, and the effects of voucher programs. He has served as a consultant to the White House and various state and national governments on education policies. Eric was also my stats teacher at Stanford. 

I hope you enjoyed learning from Eric Bettinger, because I always do.

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