Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 8



This topic explains pure discovery instruction. At the end of the topic , you will be able to

Define the concept of the pure discovery instructional approach, with classroom

The Theoretical Framework of Pure Discovery Learning/Instruction

Apply pure discovery learning approach in classroom teaching.


Discovery Learning (DL) is an inquiry-based approach where students develop knowledge
related to a topic largely through their own endeavours, using whatever human and material
resources they may need (Ormrod, J. 1995). It promotes students as active investigators
rather than passive recipients of information delivered to them by the teacher or textbook. It
engages students in learning through discovery.
Discovery learning is a type of learning where learners construct their own knowledge by
experimenting with a domain, and inferring rules from the results of these experiments. The
basic idea of this kind of learning is that because learners can design their own experiments
in the domain and infer the rules of the domain themselves they are actually constructing
their knowledge. Because of these constructive activities, it is assumed they will understand
the domain at a higher level than when the necessary information is just presented by a
teacher or an expository learning environment. (van Joolingen (1999:385)
In discovery learning, participants learn to recognize a problem, characterize what a
solution would look like, search for relevant information, develop a solution strategy, and
execute the chosen strategy. In collaborative discovery learning, participants, immersed in a
community of practice, solve problems together. ( Borthick & Jones (2000:181)
. Discovery learning is "an approach to instruction through which students interact with their
environment-by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and
controversies, or performing experiments" (Ormrod, 1995, p. 442) The idea is that students
are more likely to remember concepts they discover on their own. Teachers have found that

discovery learning is most successful when students have prerequisite knowledge and
undergo some structured experiences. (Roblyer, Edwards, and Havriluk, 1997, p 68).
Discovery Learning provides students with opportunities to develop hypotheses to answer questions
and can contribute to the development of a lifelong love of learning. Students propose issues or
problems, gather data and observations to develop hypotheses, confirm or refine their hypotheses,
and explain or prove their problems. Apple Teaching Methods, Discovery Learning
Discovery learning is based on this "Aha!" method.

Basically, the pedagogical aims of Discovery Learning are threefold:
a) Promote "deep" learning,
b) Promote meta-cognitive skills (develop problem-solving skills, creativity, etc.), and
c) Promote student engagement.
In the classroom, discovery learning is often implemented as role playing, group projects,
and computer simulations. It is a process through which students interact with their physical
or social environment for example, by exploring and manipulating objects, performing
experiments, or wresting with questions and controversies and derive information for
Based on the definitions above, list the main characteristics of Discovery Learning.


Discovery learning is associated with the following:

Rousseau, Pestalozzi Dewey's emphasis on "experience" .

Relate to constructivist theory and Bruner as a father of discovery learning.

Bruner "Emphasis on discovery in learning has precisely the effect on the learner of leading
him to be a constructionist, to organize what he is encountering in a manner not only
designed to discover regularity and relatedness, but also to avoid the kind of information drift
that fails to keep account of the uses to which information might have to be put." (Bruner,

Seymour Papert's constructionism.

"You can't teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them
where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it." - Seymour Papert

problem solving (or learning how to solve problems under a more meta-cognitive
perspective): "Learning theorists characterize learning to solve problems as discovery
learning, in which participants learn to recognize a problem, characterize what a solution

would look like, search for relevant information, develop a solution strategy, and execute the
chosen strategy." (Borthick & Jones, 2000:181)

There are two main forms of Discovery Learning pure discovery and guided

Pure Discovery - The student receives representative problems to solve with minimal
teacher guidance (Mayer, 2003).

Guided Discovery - The student receives problems to solve, but the teacher provides
hints and directions about how to solve the problem to keep the student on track
(Mayer, 2003).


In pure (unstructured) discovery, learners are given little or no direction from the teacher.
They have to decide the most appropriate method for investigating the given problem and to
reach their own conclusions from their data and the observations they make.


Discovery approach is sometimes used in science, mathematics and for topics in social
studies, but the outcomes are not always good, particularly for student with poor study skills,
weak self-management and difficulties with inductive reasoning. Eggen and Kauchak (2004
p.497) reviewed research on the effectiveness of discovery learning and concluded that
Student in unstructured discovery activities become lost and frustrated; this confusion
sometimes leads to misconception. Often students with learning difficulties do not have a
clear idea of what they are expected to do, and because of weak self-efficacy they do not
believe in their own ability to understand a problem by thinking in an active way. Pure
discovery methods can prime the integration process in which the learner searches longterm memory for ideas but may not prime the selecting and organizing processes in
which the learner comes into contact with the to-be-learned material.
In Pure Discovery Instruction,

Students are given total freedom in exploration

Teacher provides materials for student exploration.

Teacher provides guidelines only in terms of safety and equipment care.

Students explore at their own rate.

Instructional support
Pure discovery learning does not use instructional supports, it imposes large amounts of
extraneous cognitive load on novice and intermediate learners, thereby increasing the
amount of time mental effort expended on learning while decreasing post-learning
performance relative to more structured approach (Tuovinen & Sweller, 1999). However,
learners with high levels of expertise in the material presented have been found to perform
better after learning in unstructured environment that do not impose unnecessary
scaffolding. As such, pure discovery learning is maximally beneficial only to those learners
who require additional training least.
Collaborative discovery learning
Discovery learning with micro worlds
Experiential learning
Guided discovery learning
Incidental learning
Learning by exploring (exploratory learning)
Simulation-based learning
Case-based learning
Problem-based learning
inquiry-based learning



Select an activity. To begin pick an activity that is relatively short so that follow-up
attempts are easier to predict and plan for. Select a subject with which you are
personally familiar and comfortable. Also in the beginning it is often best to choose an

activity that does not have just one correct answer. Role-playing, creating sculptures,
observing characteristics of objects, or searching for or classifying similar items all
work well.
Gather materials. Remember to have enough materials for each learner to repeat
the activity at least once.
Stay focused. Avoid learning tangents that may be interesting but will keep the
learner from finishing the project, unless they are truly of great curiosity and value.
Instead take notes concerning the new interest to follow-up on once the initial activity
is completed.
Use caution. While the idea of discovery learning is for the instructor to step back
and observe allowing the child to work independently, be sure that safety is observed.
Activities such as cooking and cutting should always be supervised by an adult and
experimenting with magnets is nice unless an important video or cassette tape is
Plan extra time. Understand that children working on their own will most likely take
longer than they would with an adult moving them from step to step. Also be sure to
plan time for repeated activities in case there is a failure or other reason to repeat the
Record process and results. Include in the activity a requirement for older children
to record their procedure and results. For young children guide, assist, or model
record keeping.
Discuss and review. After and activity is completed and before it is repeated a
second time (if needed), discuss the activity and its outcome with the child. Use the
records which were kept to assist during this step. Once the activity has been
analyzed, record any observations or mistakes.
Try again. Have the child repeat the activity if necessary. Encourage her to take into
account what was done and the discussion that occurred. Allow her to use any
records that were kept to assist her in successfully completing the activity. Give
assistance and guidance as necessary.
Plan for more discovery learning activities. Think over how this activity worked for
the child. As you plan more discovery activities take the answers to these questions
into consideration. What went well? What could have gone better? How can any
problem areas be corrected or alleviated?

How would you apply pure discovery in your classroom?


Mayer (2004) believes that active learning does not always require active teaching.
Instructional methods that promote processing in learners can be enacted in which the
learners do not need only hands-on activity or group discussion. He states that pure
discovery is not effective, however, minimally guided discovery is.
The advantages of discovery learning are:

Supports active engagement of the learner in the learning process

Fosters curiosity

Enables the development of life long learning skills

Personalizes the learning experience

Highly motivating as it allows individuals the opportunity to experiment and discover

something for themselves

Builds on learner's prior knowledge and understanding

Develops a sense of independence and autonomy

Make them responsible for their own mistakes and results

Learning as most adults learn on the job and in real life situations

A reason to record their procedure and discoveries - such as not repeating mistakes,
a way to analyze what happened, and a way to record a victorious discovery

Develops problem solving and creative skills

Finds new and interesting avenues of information and learning - such as gravy made
with too much cornstarch can become a molding medium

The disadvantages of Discovery Learning/Instruction are:

(Sometimes huge) cognitive overload, potential to confuse the learner if no initial

framework is available, etc.
Measurable performance (compared to hard-core instructional designs) is worse for
most learning situations.

Creations of misconceptions ("knowing less after instruction")

Weak students have a tendency to "fly under the radar" (Aleven et al. 2003) and
teacher's fail to detect situations needing strong remediation or scaffolding.

This topic has illustrated some basic considerations in (pure) discovery instruction/learning.
It highlights
(a) the concept of the pure discovery instructional approach, with classroom
(b) Theories underpinning Pure Discovery Learning/Instruction
(c) Application of pure discovery learning approach in classroom teaching