What Is Errorless Learning?

03 September, 2020
Any healthy child is capable of learning from their mistakes. However, in certain circumstances, it's preferable to avoid mistakes and focus on errorless learning.

Currently, the educational system, both formal and informal, is based on the method of trial and error. Both in schools and in homes, children are encouraged to try things and learn from their mistakes. However, there’s a method that promotes a more accurate acquisition of knowledge from the beginning. Its name is errorless learning.

This methodology is commonly used in adults with brain damage, as experts have shown that making mistakes makes learning far more difficult. Nevertheless, this could be a valid alternative in children too.

Why may the trial and error method not be appropriate?

We must bear in mind that every time we perform an action, our brains establish certain neuronal connections. Whenever we repeat the action, such associations are strengthened and become more accessible to us.

By way of an example, every time a child points to a circle and says “circle”, they’re reaffirming the mental association between the object and the word. In this way, it becomes easier and easier for them to identify and define this geometrical shape.

But what happens when the child makes a mistake? What happens if they get confused and say “square” when they point to the circle?

What Is Errorless Learning?

In principle, an erroneous neuronal connection would be established. However, if the same mistake isn’t repeated then that connection would lose its strength and there wouldn’t be a problem.

However, if the same mistake is made frequently, then the erroneous association will become stronger, and it’s more likely to occur again and again.

In addition, the trial and error method can have a negative emotional impact on the child. Repeatedly failing at the same exercise or task can diminish a child’s self-esteem and their perception of their capabilities. The child may also end up rejecting that particular activity or developing negative emotions associated with the teacher or class.

For example, a child who didn’t learn how to solve a math problem correctly from the beginning is likely to always repeat the initial errors, especially if they’ve tried to do it several times using the wrong method. This will only increase their frustration and decrease their motivation in that subject.

What is errorless learning?

Errorless learning, on the other hand, advocates installing correct learning methods right from the start. In this way, only the correct neural connection is established and reinforced. In this way, we avoid repeating the error, and the child avoids the frustration and negative feelings. To achieve an accurate performance from the start, you need to follow certain guidelines.

How to implement errorless learning

Avoid asking the child open-ended questions that could lead to mistakes. For example, it wouldn’t be appropriate to show him three different colored paints and ask them to point out the yellow one. Nor should we ask them what a particular object is called. At least, not until the child has developed sufficient knowledge.

What Is Errorless Learning?

  • Instead, it’s preferable that we teach them right from the start only the right answers and the right actions and sequences to take. In this way, we would simply have to show them the yellow paint and repeat the word “yellow” until the child reinforces the association. Without question, there’s no room for error; the method focuses on establishing the only valid association.
  • The same thing happens if we want to teach something more complex, such as a sequence of actions. We have to focus on showing it in a clear and slow way from the beginning. For example, to solve a mathematical problem, we’ll have to sit next to them and guide them, step by step, through the whole process, without letting them get the wrong answer. By repeating the correct sequence, the desired learning will take place.
  • It’s important to prevent errors as much as possible, but, if they do occur, then we just have to ignore them and focus on the correct way of doing it. This method’s main objective is to reinforce the appropriate approaches to learning.
  • Finally, it’s vital to ensure that the tasks are appropriate to the child’s abilities. It’s also advisable to teach them in a personalized way and encourage motivation and positive reinforcement.

An educational alternative

In short, any healthy child has the cognitive skills necessary to detect his or her own mistakes and learn from them. Nevertheless, this alternative is very effective for children suffering from an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, in general, whenever we want to avoid frustration and demotivation in our children.

 

  • Melo, R. M. D., Hanna, E. S., & Carmo, J. D. S. (2014). Aprendizaje sin error y la discriminación aprendizaje. Temas em Psicologia22(1), 207-222.
  • Briceño, M. T. (2009). El uso del error en los ambientes de aprendizaje: una visión transdisciplinaria. Revista de teoría y didáctica de las ciencias sociales, (14), 9-28.