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Theory of Trial and Error Learning b.ed notes | Trial and error theory of learning


Theory of Trial and Error Learning 

We are not able to learn any work immediately. In the process of learning we make efforts and due to obstacles we also make mistakes. Continuous efforts ead to progress in learning and fewer mistakes.

Therefore, by making repeated efforts towards any activity, mistakes are reduced, then this is called the principle of trial and error.

According to Woodworth - "In trial and error, many attempts have to be made to do any work, most of which are wrong.,

According to Rein - "Combination theory is the theory which believes that the original or acquired Functions occurring in processes, conditions and reactions are included.

The proponent of the principle of trial and error is E.L. Thorndike. 

Thorndike in his theory considered creating the right response and combining it with the appropriate stimulus. He found in daily life experiences that a person reacts on the basis of his efficiency.

He retaliates until he achieves success. In this, trials and mistakes happen simultaneously. Gradually learning improves and mistakes reduce.

Features of trial and error theory of learning 


Thorndike has described the following characteristics in the learning theory of trial and error:

Presence of motivator, which maintains continuity of interest in learning.

Making many types of reactions, which are both right and wrong.

Not making mistakes or wrong actions, but gradually eliminating them.

Establishing sequential connections between goal achieving reactions and supporting reactions.

Thorndike's experiment on trial and error theory learning 


Thorndike locked a hungry cat in a cage called the Problem Box. A plate of fish or meat was placed outside the cage, the cat could smell its aroma. So, to come out of the cage, the cat started doing activities like clawing on the wires, biting them, pressing the surface of the cage and jumping etc.

At that time these activities were aimless. Later, while doing these activities, suddenly his foot fell on the latch and the door of the cage opened. The cat came out and got the Food. In this way the cat had to go through 100 attempts to open the latch and come out.

Full accounts were kept of the mistakes made during practice. Now as soon as the cat was locked, it would open the latch and come out immediately, just like a human would.

Important facts of using the trial and error


After the above experiment we come across the following psychological facts:

Initially doing many aimless activities,

To accelerate efforts through inspiration,

sudden success,

effect of practice,

Knowledge of the relationship between sensation and reaction,

choosing the correct responses and,

Forgetting wrong reactions.

Importance of trial and error theory in learning

A teacher should use this principle in daily teaching in the following ways

1. Student encouragement

It is clear from this principle that for students to learn and be motivated, it is necessary for them to have motivation, goals and objectives. Therefore, students are encouraged by trial and error.


2. Development in tendency of own work

 Students learn to do their work themselves. Solve the problem themselves, so that they can develop confidence in themselves. Natural talent develops in children through trial and error.

3. Force on practice

Students should be told the meaning, use and importance of practice. Every person becomes great only through practice.

4. Development of thinking power

In this theory, children's brain remains active continuously. He weighs each counterargument on the strength of logic. Therefore, one attains the paths of knowledge through contemplation.

5. Problem solving

Children face problems. Teacher is not available at every place. Therefore, only through efforts they find the solution to their problem.

6. Saving of time and power


Learning through the principle of trial and error saves children's energy, money and time. He chooses the right response and by practicing it he learns the task quickly.

7. For all groups

This principle is useful for all classes of children and adults, retarded or talented. As Dr. Mangal has written "Through his theory, Thorndike has tried to make earning purposeful and goal directed and to make motivation an invaluable part of the learning process.