This webpage uses Javascript to display some content.

Please enable Javascript in your browser and reload this page.

Home | Fiction | Nonfiction | Novels | | Innisfree Poetry | Enskyment Journal | International| FACEBOOK | Poetry Scams | Stars & Squadrons | Newsletter


Theory of Knowledge

Reconstruction of Qur’anic Thoughts with an Attempt to Unify Rationalism and Empiricism

By S.M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)

(Author’s e-mail:


Click here to send comments

Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques

Trial-and-No-Error Learning:
A Practical Guide to Knowledge Enrichment


Introduction: In this paper I will define a new concept that can be easily and successfully used by educational institutions and learning organizations – both for-profit and not-for-profit. The concept is termed Trial-and-No-Error Learning. I have used the technique in the field of teaching and have got unique results. This experience, being objective and generalized, can be successfully extended to any kind of activities that require extensive learning.

The Trial-and-Error Learning: The most basic process of learning is the trial-and-error learning. It is equally true of humans and non-human organisms. This is the process which was initially one of the most important topics of research on learning in the field of psychology. This is the primary process by which humans (and animals, as the case may be) learn along the path of evolution – from experience, from mistakes, and from history. The essential components of this kind of learning are:

               a stimulus (external such as an attack or internal such as hunger),
      ‚   a response (or the activity done by the organism),
      ƒ   success or failure (in achieving the objective),
      „   a storage of the event in the memory, and
            …   a change in the manner of response in the case of failure or repeating it in the case of success.

The learning occurs in the form of conditioning, which refers to the formation of a long-term memory that unifies the pieces of information about an expectation that acting in a certain way will produce a certain outcome. In other words, this memory is a stored pattern of information linking an intention (to act in a certain way) and an expectation (of a certain outcome). Thus it is evident that learning occurs both when effort is successful and when it is not successful, assuring, of course, that the failure will not be fatal enough to cause a survival problem. As we will shortly see, our proposed trial-and-no-error learning takes place in the same ways, with, however, a re-directed pattern of awareness and objective.

The Pareto Principle: In the Quality Approach to management, a concept called Pareto analysis is used. This analysis relates to the separation of major problems from the minor ones. It looks for 20 percent of the possible causes that lead to 80 percent of all problems. In other words, the Patero Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, hypothesizes that in a system 80 percent of the major problems are due only to 20 percent of all possible causes. Though this rule may not apply to all situations with quantitative precision, the approach is very valuable because it shows cost-effective ways of managing mistakes and problems and of allocating resources. This approach points out that in a complex field of learning, some specific causes account for most of the problems or mistakes. For example, in learning English, learners often make some specific types of mistakes that are generally called “common mistakes/errors”. Likewise, the employees of a functional department of a company are likely to make a repeatedly observed set of mistakes ¾ behavioral, procedural, or decisional. Needless to say, similar phenomena are observed among students learning different subjects at universities or among trainess in professional areas.

The No-Error Trial: The following steps of activities, followed in the same sequence, combine to make up the procedure:

1.     Teach the student/group of students the subject in the most effective way possible.
2.     Observe and record the mistakes that they most frequently make. Detect their causes. Categorize (if possible) the causes and the mistakes and link 20 percent of the (categories of) causes to 80 percent of the (categories of) problems. Or do a similar linking in a meaningful way.
3.     Inform the student(s) of the mistakes they have made and tell them to analyze them in detail.
4.     Now make them use their knowledge in simulated work-environments or in exams and observe the frequency of the errors.
5.     In the last stage get them to deliberately make the mistakes or similar categories of mistakes so far recorded in other simulated work-environments or in exams.

The last step of the activity is sure to create a great fun and entertainment. When one deliberately wants to make a mistake, re-learning takes place in two sequential steps:

    one becomes first aware of what the particular mistake is;

  • then one acts in order to reproduce it with always the awareness that what one is doing is what one might not be aware of otherwise.

The result will be promising: If one is successful in making the intended mistake, then one commits no error – and consequently one loses all fear of making that mistake in the future – since the fear of making mistakes reinforces the mistakes feared. After all, knowing a mistake to be a mistake means a success. On the contrary, if one is not successful in reproducing the mistake, then also one is naturally correct. As a result, one makes all trials without any error or mistake! In other words, one is correct both ways!

Trying to Forget: There are some cases of mistake ¾ especially those relating to behavioral norms or policies of a routine nature ¾ that can be kept in awareness by deliberately trying to forget having made them in the past. This process can be integrated in the teaching or training program. Various funny methods can be developed for this purpose, with careful attention to the possibility that participants might feel disgraced when asked to forget mistakes that they have already made. This method can best work when the individual is self-motivated to use it. However, there should be an important situation that will add importance to the mistakes. One method can be formulated in the from of an exam or a series of exams, which may be called Exams for Training. In this exam the learners are likely not to perform well. The exams over, they will resent their bad performance, as they will consider the exams to be crucial to their career development or self-fulfillment. Then their exam papers together with their mark sheets/grade sheets can be presented to them a number of times with analyses of the mistakes from different angles of view. This will certainly motivate them to try to forget the mistakes. A resentment will reverberate in their minds: ‘I wish I didn’t make so silly mistakes’, or ‘If only I had taken a good preparation.’ At last the real exam may be given as an opportunity for retake, on the basis of which their performance will be actually evaluated.

After-word: No teaching or training program can be effective enough if it fails to throw light on what the cost of mistakes or errors might be. Many a training program fails to produce durable learning mainly because of its inability to do this. After all, the real knowledge is what is left after what was learnt has been forgotten. We often put perennial importance on practice, prolonged experience, and analytical exercises such as case studies. But we must not forget that practicing the wrong knowledge over a long time means establishing mistakes in the experience. There can be no error-free knowledge, but there should always be efforts to promote error-free learning. If knowledge is important, then it is so because errors or mistakes are important.




Continued ...



Author of:

Secret Knowledge of the Qur'an