Thorndike's Trial and Error Theory/S.R. Theory of Learning
Thorndike propagated his theory with the help of the experiments performed on chickens, rats and cats. For this purpose he put them under different learning situations. Thorndike selected chickens, rats and cats for experimentation. He placed them under different learning situations and studied them carefully. With the help of these experiments, he tried to evolve certain laws and propagated his theory of connectionism or trial and error learning. For illustration, below we narrate one of his experiment.
Thorndike's experiment on the cat in the Puzzle Box
He put a hungry cat in a puzzle box. There was only one door for exit which could be opened by correctly manipulating a latch. A fish was placed outside the box. The smell of the fish worked as a strong motive for the hungry cat to come out of the box. Consequently, the cat made every possible effort to come. The situation is described by himself in 1911 as "It tries to squeeze through every opening; it claws and bites at the bars or wires, it thrusts its paws though any opening and claws at everything it reaches."
In this way, it made a number of random movements. In one of the random movements, by chance, the latch was manipulated. The cat came out and got its reward responses. Now it was able to open the door without any error in other words, learned the way of opening the door.
Thorndike called this the 'stimulus-response' principle. This is called 'S-R Theory' in short. According to this theory, the first requirement for learning is 'stimulus', the second requirement is 'response' and the third requirement is 'profound relationship between stimulus-response'. This principle is also called 'contract-principle'. In this, the learner reaches the right response by effort and mistake, hence it is also called 'theory of try and mistake'.
The experiment sums up the following stages in the process of learning:
- 1. Drive:- In the present experiment it was hunger and was intensified with the sight of the food.
- 2. Goal:- To get the food by getting out of the box.
- 3. Block:- The cat was confined in the box with a closed door.
- 4. Random Movements:- The cat, persistently, tried to get out of the box.
- 5. Chance Success:- As a result of this striving and random move.nent the cat, by chance, succeeded in opening the door.
- 6. Selection of Proper Movement:- Gradually, the cat recognized the correct manipulation of latch. It selected the proper way of manipulating the latch out of its random movements.
- 7. Fixation:- At last, the cat learned the proper way of opening the door by eliminating all the incorrect responses and fixing the only right responses. Now it was able to open the door without any error or in other words, learned the way of opening the door.
Features of Stimulus Response Theory
- This theory is a supporter of connectionism, secondly, it considers learning to be established only in stimulus-response.
- According to this principle, being able to use the learned knowledge is called learning.
- This theory considers it necessary to have a purpose for learning.
- This theory considers the effort of the learner to be necessary to achieve the objective.
- This theory considers it necessary to have some motivator or motivator behind the purpose of learning.
Drawbacks of Stimulus Response Theory
- This theory is based on the experiments done on animals, that is, it does not fully apply to the learning process of humans.
- According to this theory a stimulus is necessary for learning, whereas humans respond without a stimulus.
- This principle talks about reaching the right response by effort and mistake, while humans can also directly respond by understanding.
- This theory considers man to be a biological machine and learning as a mechanical process, while intelligence, thinking, reasoning and reasoning play a big part in the process of human learning.
- This principle emphasizes on learning by trial and error, so it takes more time.
Use of stimulus response theory in education
- This principle is used in preparing children to learn before they are taught anything.
- This principle is used in learning by trial and error for retarded children.
- This principle is used by the children in learning by their own effort.
- Using this principle, students should be praised when they respond correctly and if they fail, they should be encouraged to try again and again.
- According to this principle, the rules of learning are used to make the learning process effective.
Thorndike's Laws of Learning
1. The law of readiness
"When any conduction unit is ready to conduct, for it to do so is satisfying. When any condition unit is not in readiness to conduct, for it to conduct in annoying. When any condition unit is in readiness to conduct, for it not to do so is annoying."
This law is indicative of learner's state to participate in the learning process Readiness according to Thorndike for action. It is very essential learning. If the child is ready to learn he learns more quickly, effectively and with great satisfaction than if he is not ready to learn. It warns us not to make the child learn till he is ready to learn and also not to miss any opportunity of providing learning experience if the child is, already. prepared to learn. The right movements concerning the learning situation and the, learner's state of mind-should be very well recognised and maximum use left this knowledge should be made by the teacher. He should also make an attempt to motivate the students by arousing their attention, interest and curiosity.
2. The Law of Effect
"When a modifiable connection between situation and response made and is accompanied or followed by a satisfying state of affairs, the connection's strength is increased. When made and accompanied followed by an annoying state of affairs, its strength is decreased."
In simple words, it means that the learning takes place properly when it results in satisfaction and the learner derives pleasure out of it. Is the situation when the child meets a failure or gets dissatisfaction, the progress on the path of learning is blocked. All the pleasant experiences have a lasting influence and are remembered for a long time, while the unpleasant ones are soon forgotten. Therefore, the satisfaction and dissatisfaction, pleasure or displeasure obtained as a result of some learning ensure the degree of effectiveness of that learning.
3. The Law of Exercise
This law has two sub-parts-law of use and law of disuse. The statements regarding these sub parts run as under:
- (i). Law of use:- "When a modifiable connection is made between situation and response that connection's strength is, other thing being equal, increased."
- (ii). Law of disuse:- "When a modifiable connection is not made between situation and response, during a length of time, that connection's strength is decreased."
In this way, Law of use refers to the strengthening of connection with practice while the law of disuse to the weakening of connection of forgetting, when the practice is discontinued. In brief, it can be said that Law of Exercise as a whole, emphasizes the need of repetition, practice and drill work in the process of learning.
Auxiliary Rules of Learning
(i) Principle of multiple response:- This rule states that in any learning situation a person makes multiple responses. Due to this, some responses, which are not helpful in achieving the goal, the person forgets them and he learns the response which is helpful in achieving the goal. The pedagogical utility of this rule is that students should be motivated to learn something by themselves in the classroom.
(ii) Principle of mental set pr attitude:- This law states that the process of teaching depends to a great extent on the mental attitude and attitude of the person. Mental attitude means readiness to do any work. originates from. Mental attitude and attitude does not only tell what a person will do, but it also shows what will be satisfied with and what will not be satisfied.
(iii) Principle of prepotency of elements:- According to this law, there are both coherent and inconsistent elements in any learning presentation. Whose strength or significance is different. One separates the coordinating elements, because their significance is relatively high.
(iv) Principle of analogy or similarity:- According to this rule, a person responds to a new situation in the same way which is similar to his previous experience or already learned response. How much transfer will take place in this new situation from the previously learned situation, depends on the number of common elements in both the situations.
(v) Principle of associative shifting:- According to this law any response which a person has the capacity to do can also be generated by a new stimulus. If the same response is produced continuously in the same situation in the midst of some changes, then in the end the same response is also generated by a completely new stimulus.
Educational Implications of Thorndike's Theory
As far as the Thorndike's laws of learning are concerned, it goes without saying that Thorndike has done a valuable service to the field of learning and teaching by providing these laws. These laws imply the following things in general:
1. In the process of teaching and learning the main task of the teacher is to see what things he likes to be remembered or forgotten by his students. After this, he must try to strengthen the bonds or connections between the stimuli and responses of those things, which are to be remembered, through repetition, drill and reward. For forgetting; the connections should be weakened through disuse and annoying results.
2. The child must be made ready to learn. His interest, attitude and mental preparation is essential for the smooth sailing in the teaching-learning process.
3. It is also emphasized that the past experiences and learning give an adequate base for the new learning. Therefore, the teacher should try to make use of the previous knowledge and experiences of the students. The child must, also, be encouraged to see similarities and dissimilarities between the different kinds of responses to stimuli and with the help of comparison and contrast should try to apply the learning of something in one situation to the other similar situations.
4. The child should be encouraged to do his work independently. He must try the various solutions of the problem before arriving at a correct one. But every care should be taken to see that he may not waste his time and energy. He should not be allowed to repeat his mistakes and proceed blindly without using his reasoning and thinking powers and utilize the past learning experiences.
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