The Relevance of Trial-and-Error Can Trial-and-Error Be a Sufficient Learning Method in Technical Problem-solving-contexts?


  • Kai-Christian Tönnsen Europa-Universität Flensburg Institute of Mathematical, Scientific and Technical Education Department of technology and its didactics


The popular problem-solving method ‘trial-and-error’ could be regarded as a low-threshold method that does not support cognitive activity. This opinion can be even emphasized by observing persons who try to find a satisfying solution by trialing with physical objects, because they may look as if they do not think at all. Regarding the trial-and-error-method in more detail, this opinion seems to be deficient. In fact, there are different variations of trial-and-error. Most of them require intensive thinking processes and focus on learning about the problem and its solution options. A pilot study revealed findings and showed that trial-and-error activities initialize important learning processes. It often occurs in several loops, especially if the problem solver is an unexperienced novice in a trial-supporting space. Students of a research-oriented course engaged 15 participants of different experience levels with an obstacle, that should be bridged over with not more than 10 sheets of paper. The analysis of the trials showed, that novices found as capable solutions as more experienced persons did. While they needed more trials, they all developed the essential idea of folding bending-resistant profiles of paper. These results prove that persons are learning while trialing.




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Tönnsen, K.-C. (2021). The Relevance of Trial-and-Error: Can Trial-and-Error Be a Sufficient Learning Method in Technical Problem-solving-contexts?. Techne serien - Forskning i slöjdpedagogik och slöjdvetenskap, 28(2), 303–312. Hämtad från