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Discovery Learning

Discovery Learning 

What is Discovery Learning
   The idea behind Discovery Learning is that students utilize prior knowledge, existing knowledge, and new knowledge gained to discover new ideas, truths, or beliefs about a topic. Discovery Learning is a constructivist theory. With Discovery Learning, students are able to utilize their cognitive ability to gain new knowledge. In other words, students may not all be at the same level of learning; each student can gain a different level of knowledge on a topic in his/her own way and still reach the intended outcome set by the teacher. Discovery learning is inquiry based; teachers can give the students a question about a topic and the students work to discover the facts and make connections in order to learn the material. It is very important with Discovery Learning that teachers take an active role in ensuring that students are going in the right direction with their learning; teachers must actively look to see if students are gathering misconceptions about a topic and then correct those misconceptions.

Who is the founder of Discovery Learning?

   Jerome Bruner is considered to be the founder of the constructivist theory. According to Bruner, Discovery Learning is where, "...learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon existing knowledge." (Theories of Learning) Bruner does not like the idea of grades or class rank as a motivating factor for students to learn material. Instead, he feels that the motivation comes from an interest in the subject area. The idea of Discovery Learning allows for students to gain an interest in the subject knowledge.

What are students doing during Discovery Learning?
Students may be:
  • researching information
  • manipulating objects
  • performing experiments
  • having discussions and/or debates
  • looking at other viewpoint
  • asking deeper questions
  • discussing ideas of knowledge gained or misconceptions with the teacher
What are considered to be the advantages of Discovery Learning?
   There are many advantages to Discovery Learning. These may include:
  • students are more actively engaged
  • students are developing their problem solving skills
  • students are taking responsibility for their learning
  • students are developing their creativity
  • students are more motivated to learn information
  • students are independent 
  • students may have to work with others to discuss, analyze, and argue knowledge and or problems with understanding.
  • learning experiences and content can be geared more towards the students' abilities.
What do critics say?
   Critics of Discovery Learning worry that students may develop misconceptions and that the teachers may not catch these misconceptions in enough time, resulting in having to reteach material.
They also worry that students will experience "cognitive overload" (Learning Theories Knowledgebase)

What would be a common example of Discovery Learning?
   One of the most common forms of Discovery Learning is the scientific model. In this model students must: 1. Identify the problem. 2. Generate a hypothesis. 3. Test the hypothesis. 4. Apply the results of the test to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Based on this model, students will either prove that their hypothesis was correct or have to learn information about why it was disproven.
   Another example would be the problem-based model. In this model, students are given a problem to solve. In order to solve the problem, students must gather information, research, and ask questions about possible solutions to the given problem.
   Having students create simulations of things is another example of Discovery Learning. Students may have to discover how something works or apply information in order to provide an accurate simulation.

What does Bruner say?

YouTube Video

What does it look like in the classroom?

What does Discovery Learning look like?

Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2011, April). Discovery Learning (Bruner) at Retrieved April 14th, 2011 from

Tomei, L. (2004, October 20). Learning Theories -- A Primer Exercise An Examination of Cognitivism: The Psychology of Knowledge and Strategies. Retrieved April 14, 2011, from 

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