Discovery Learning

Decorative: "Discovery" spelled out in letter blocks


"Why Is Discovery Learning Vital for College Success?" (post) and "Instructional Design Models and Theories: The Discovery Learning Model" (post) introduce discovery learning and its five principles, outline benefits of incorporating discovery learning, list some drawbacks, and suggest some "commonly used discovery learning methods."

1. What Is Discovery Learning?

"Discovery Learning ... is a method of Inquiry-Based Instruction."

  • It "encourages learners to build on past experiences and knowledge, use their intuition, imagination and creativity, and search for new information to discover facts, correlations and new truths."
  • "Learning does not equal absorbing what was said or read, but actively seeking for answers and solutions."
  • It "[enables your students to ask critical questions, conduct their own research, improve their problem-solving skills, and form their own conclusions." 

2. What Are the Five Principles of Discovery Leanring?

a. Problem Solving

  • "Instructors ... guide and motivate learners to seek for solutions by combining existing and newly acquired information and simplifying knowledge."
  • "[L]earners ... take an active role and establish broader applications for skills through activities that encourage risks, problem-solving, and probing."

b. Learner Management

  • "Instructors ... allow participants to work either alone or with others and learn at their own pace."
  • "This flexibility makes learning the exact opposite of a static sequencing of lessons and activities, relieves learners from unnecessary stress, and makes them feel they own learning."

c. Integrating and Connecting

  • "Instructors ... teach learners how to combine prior knowledge with new and encourage them to connect to the real world."
  • "Familiar scenarios become the basis of new information, encouraging learners to extend what they know and invent something new."

d. Information Analysis and Interpretation

  • "[P]rocess-oriented and not content-oriented ..., [it is] based on the assumption that learning is not a mere set of facts."
  • "Learners ... learn to analyze and interpret the acquired information, rather than memorize the correct answer."

e. Failure and Feedback

  • It "does not focus on finding the right end result, but the new things we discover in the process."
  • "[I]t’s the instructor’s responsibility to provide feedback, since without it learning is incomplete."

3. Benefits of Discovery Learning

  • "Increases active engagement"
  • "Promotes motivation to learn and make the most of their knowledge"
  • "Promotes responsibilities, autonomy, and independence"
  • "Develops creativity and problem-solving approach[es]"
  • "Tailor[s] learning experiences"

4. Potential Drawbacks of Discovery Learning

  • "[N]eeds a solid framework ... the endless wandering and seeking for answers might be confusing"
  • "[A]s a main instruction method ... [it] has limitations in practice and might produce inadequate education"
  • "Instructors need to be well prepared and anticipate the questions they may receive and be able to provide the right answers or guidelines."
  • "At a certain level, it rejects the idea that there are significant skills and knowledge that all learners should need to learn."

5. Commonly Used Discovery-Learning Methods

a. Some Discovery-Learning Learning Methods

  • "Interviews: Encouraging students to talk to people with greater knowledge on a certain topic ..."
  • "Individual research: Giving students one topic they need to explore on their own by using technology, books, and other material that could provide a greater understanding of the given topic."
  • "Data-based projects: Giving students a topic which should lead to research and gathering information about it." 
  • "Video presentations: When learning about a new topic, students can create video presentations about a certain issue within the topic to practice their creative thinking and learn how to express themselves in various ways."

b. Models based upon Discovery Learning

  • "[G]uided discovery"
  • "[P]roblem-based learning"
  • "[S]imulation-based learning"
  • "[C]ase-based learning"
  • "[I]ncidental learning"
Discovery vs Traditional Learning: In discovery learning, students participate in hands-on and problem-solving activities, it emphasizes the process, and failure encourages the students to continue the search for solutions. In traditional learning, it's about knowledge transfer, emphasizing the result and considering failure "not good."


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