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Jerome S. Bruner is one of the best known and influential psychologists of the twentieth
century. He was one of the key figures in the so called cognitive revolution but it is the
field of education that his influence has been especially felt. His books The Process of
Education and Towards a Theory of Instruction have been widely read and become
recognized as classics, and his work on the social studies programme Man: A Course of
Study (MACOS) in the mid-1960s is a landmark in curriculum development. More recently
Bruner has come to be critical of the cognitive revolution and has looked to the building of a
cultural psychology that takes proper account of the historical and social context of
participants. In his 1996 book The Culture of Education these arguments were developed with
respect to schooling (and education more generally). How one conceives of education, he
wrote, we have finally come to recognize, is a function of how one conceives of the culture
and its aims, professed and otherwise (Bruner 1996: ix-x).

Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner felt the goal of education should be intellectual
development, as opposed to rote memorization of facts. He believed curriculum should foster
the development of problem-solving skills through the processes of inquiry and discovery. He
believed that subject matter should be represented in terms of the child's way of viewing the
world. That curriculum should be designed so that the mastery of skills leads to the mastery

of still more powerful ones. He also advocated teaching by organizing concepts and learning
by discovery.



Bruner was one of the founding fathers of constructivist theory. Constructivism is a broad
conceptual framework with numerous perspectives, and Bruner's is only one. A major theme
in the theoretical framework of Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners
construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects
and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a
cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure (i.e., schema, mental models) provides
meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to "go beyond the
information given.

Discovery Learning
Discovery learning is an inquiry- based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in
problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and
existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned .Students
interact with the world by exploring and manipulating objects ,wrestling with questions and
controversies ,or performing experiments .As a result ,students may be more likely to
remember concepts and knowledge discovered on their own (in contrast to transmissionist
model). Models that are based upon discovery learning model include: guided discovery,
problem based learning, simulation- based learning, case based learning, incidental
learning among others.


Bruner enunciates three successive stages in the development of the intellect: the enactive,
iconic and symbolic.
1. Enactive stage This is the stage in which the child understands his environment only
through the medium of actions, - not through words or imageries. For example, The infant
understands his environment by touching, biting and catching. The child learns to ride a
bicycle by holding, moving and pedalling.
2. Iconic stage (1 to 6 years) This stage is a great advancement in the cognitive level. Here
information is gained by imagery, and the child is a prisoner of his perpetual world. He is
swayed by brightness, vividness, noise and movement. For example, A child drawing an
image of a tree or thinking of an image of a tree would be representative of this stage.
3. Symbolic stage (from 7 years and up) In this stage, language, logic and mathematics
come to play in increasing proportions, compatibility and semantically rich statements
characterize this stage. For example, the word dog is a symbolic representation for a single
class of animal. Symbols, unlike mental images or memorized actions, can be classified and
organized. In this stage, most information is stored as words, mathematical symbols, or in
other symbol systems.
Bruner believed that all learning occurs through the above 3 stages .Bruner also believed that
learning should begin with direct manipulation of objects. For example, in math education,
Bruner promoted the use of algebra tiles, coins, and other items that could be manipulated.
After a learner has the opportunity to directly manipulate the objects, they should be
encouraged to construct visual representations, such as a drawing a shape or a diagram.
Finally, a learner understands the symbols associated with what they represent. For example,
a student in math understands that the plus sign ( +) means to add two numbers together and
the minus sign ( - ) means to subtract.

Spiral curriculum is Bruner's preferred way of organizing content to be taught because it
follows from how students represent content from the enactive to the symbolic stage. Bruner
would first introduce new content in an interactive mode of representation using physical
objects. Then later he would come back to the same content but reintroduce it in an iconic
mode using images to represent the contest. Finally he would reintroduce the content a third
time but this time he would introduce it in a symbolic mode of representation. This is the
concept of the spiral curriculum you spiral back and reintroduce previous taught content in
a different mode of representation and with more complexity thus building on prior learning
as students construct more sophisticated understandings .Because this parallels the
developmental stages through which learners advance.

Bruner (1966) states the following chief characteristics of an instructional theory.
1. A theory of instruction should specify the experiences which should implant effectively in
an individual a predisposition towards learning. The relationship between the teacher and the
taught determines to great extent his disposition towards learning. There is always a special
problem of authority involved in the instructional situation. The theory of instruction should
specify the regulation of this authority relationship art pre-school, elementary, secondary,
higher secondary level etc. Further, the attitude towards intellectual activity differs in
different ethnic groups, social groups, age groups and the two sexes . The theory of
instruction should specify the ways for achieving instructional goals in respect of pupils
having a specific pattern regarding use of mind.
2. Mode, economy and power are the ways for structuring knowledge in any domain. The
mode stands for the medium for presenting the knowledge. This depends upon the stage of
intellectual development of the pupils. It may thus be inactive or iconic or symbolic
representation in the light of the stage of pupils intellectual development. Economy refers to
the amount of information that needs to be presented so that it is easily processed by learners
and comprehended .The effective power of any particular way of structuring a domain of
knowledge for a particular learner refers to the generative value of his set of learned
propositions. The theory of instruction should throw ample light in the area of structuring
knowledge in any domain.
3. The sequences in which material is presented to the learners determines to a great extent
the learning on pupils part. There cannot be a unique sequence suitable for all the learners
.Sequences need to be varied in the light of pupils cognitive stage of development, their
cognitive structure, nature of the learning material, pupils learning style etc. The theory of
instruction should specify the most effective sequences in which learning material may be
presented to different sets of learners so that it is easily grasped by them.

4. The nature and pacing of reward and punishment in the teaching learning process needs
to be specified. Extrinsic rewards foster pupils learning. But as the learning progresses there
is a need to shift from extrinsic reward to intrinsic reward inherent in solving a complex
problem by the pupil himself. Further there may be point in the learning process when
immediate reward for desirable performance may be deferred reward. The theory of
instruction needs to specify the point / conditions of this shift from extrinsic and immediate to
deferred reward.


Bruner envisages 4 major parts.
1. Predisposition A theory of instruction should specify the experiences and conditions
which make a person receptive to learning.
2. Structure A theory of instruction should specify the Optimal structure of a body of
knowledge so that it can be most easily learned by the individual. Such a structure should be
relative to the learners age, ability and experience. Structure means something more than the
mere content .It implies the power of systems in knowledge to simplify information, to
generate new propositions and to increase the manipulability of what has been learned.
3. Sequence A theory of instruction should specify the most effective sequences in which to
present what is to be learned.
4. Reinforcement A theory of instruction should specify the nature and pacing of
reinforcement in the process of teaching and learning.


1. Intellectual empathy- Teachers should look at the problems from the childs point of
view. Remember that children are not miniature adults.
2. Sense training- Teachers should present only concrete objects to children in early
3. Encouragement of heuristic methods- Heurism means method of discovery.
4. Follow a sequence- Teachers should proceed from known to unknown, simple to
complex and concrete to abstract.
5. Self regulation- Teacher should permit children to proceed at their own pace. Dont
impose anything irritable on them.
6. Administration of intelligence rest to assess the processing ability (Logical operation )
of children.
7. Error analysis- There is no meaning in telling children that they are wrong. What is
needed is an analysis and interpretation of their errors in order to lead them to
8. It would be essential for a curriculum to be prepared jointly by subject matter
experts, teachers and psychologists.
9. The curriculum must be flexible enough to contain different ways of activating
children, different ways of sequencing knowledge, different edge , different opportunities
to skip parts , or to work on additional parts .
10. On-going evaluation of the curriculum is essential.
11. Curriculum should be concerned with the business of knowing, not just with
knowledge. Whatever we teach should increase the power of learning.

Jerome S Bruner is not merely one of the foremost educational thinkers of the era; he is also
an inspired learner and teacher. His infectious curiosity inspires all who are not completely
jaded. Individuals of every age and background are invited to join in. Bruner described his
theory as one of instruction rather than learning. Bruner believed that students learn best by
discovery and that the learner is a problem solver who interacts with the environment testing
hypothesis and developing generalisation. Bruner felt that the goal of education should be
intellectual development, and that the science curriculum should foster the development of
problem solving skills through inquiry and discovery.


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