Discovery learning

Discovery learning refers to various instructional design models that engages students in learning through discovery. Usually the pedagogical aims are threefold:
 (1) Promote "deep" learning,
 (2) Promote meta-cognitive skills (develop problem-solving skills, creativity, etc.),
 (3) Promote student engagement.
According to van Joolingen (1999:385): “ 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.”
According to Borthick & Jones (2000:181): “ 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.”
According to Judith Conway's Educational Technology's Effect on Models of Instruction: “ Jerome Bruner was influential in defining Discovery Learning. It uses Cognitive psychology as a base. 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.
Theory and models of discovery learning
Discovery learning can be traced back to authors like Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Dewey. In particular Dewey's emphasis on "experience" is in vogue again.
Modern discovery learning approaches relate to constructivist theory and therefore Bruner is considered a father of discovery learning by many authors. E.g. in the Encyclopedia of Educational technology one can find the following quote from 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, 1962).
Another strong influence for some kinds of discovery learning (see microworlds is Seymour Papert's constructionism. Donald Clark in his discovery learning page puts the following statement: “ "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”
Discovery learning is also strongly tied to 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)
Some authors point out that discovery learning may increase content relevance and student engagement (actually an argument that can be made for all sorts of project-oriented learning.
Discovery learning, like most constructivist instructional design models is not easy to implement, since learners need to possess a number of cognitive skills and be intrinsically motivated to learn.
van Joolingen (1999:386) makes the following point:
In research on scientific discovery learning, it has been found that in order for discovery of learning to be successful, learners need to posses a number of discovery skills (De Jong & Van Joolingen, in press), including hypothesis generation, experiment design, prediction, and data analysis. In addition, regulative skills like planning and monitoring are needed for successful discovery learning (Njoo & De Jong, 1993). Apart from being supportive for learning about the domain at hand, these skills are usually also seen as a learning goal in itself, as they are needed in a complex information society. Lack of these skills can result in ineffective discovery behavior, like designing inconclusive experiments, confirmation bias and drawing incorrect conclusions from data. In its turn, ineffective discovery behavior does not contribute to creating new knowledge in the mind of the learner.
Therefore one must try to support discovery learning processes, however with the risk of disrupting the very nature process that should engage the learner in autonomous knowledge construction.
Of course, there is a lot of disruption of this "pure model". A lot of research has pointed to out that "unguided instruction" can fail to meet precise instructional goals. Therefore, in practice, most current forms of discovery learning are guided in various ways.
Models of discovery learning
we should add a sort of common blueprint here maybe
  • Collaborative discovery learning
  • Discovery learning with microworlds
  • Experiental learning (to some extent)
  • Guided discovery learning
  • Incidental learning
  • Learning by exploring (exploratory learning)
  • Simulation-based learning
  • Case-based learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • inquiry-based learning

  • Cognitive tools
  • Simulations
  • Hypertext
  • Microworlds
  • A simple combination of webpages (read/write) and forums or alternatively a Wiki