Discovery learning: what it is and how it develops

Each of us has learned a lot throughout our lives. And throughout history, institutions like the school have emerged, which allow part of this knowledge to be passed on to new generations and provide them with the tools to develop in today’s world.

But the same methodologies have not always been used: there are several ways of learning and teaching, some of which are more advantageous than others for acquiring and developing knowledge. One is learning by discovery, Which we will talk about throughout this article.

    Discovery learning

    Discovery learning can be understood as a means of acquiring knowledge characterized by the fact that the acquisition of knowledge is produced by the subject himself. Thus, the information does not come from outside, but is limited to providing the means by which the user comes to acquire it.

    Thus, part of the establishment of starting hypotheses from which the subject draws his own conclusions, in a self-regulating way and enriching his own research based on the identification of problems to be actively solved.

    This is one of the main means by which new content can be presented in the psychic structure, allowing the subject himself to generate learning, to assimilate it and to give it to himself.

    This type of learning is much more frequent and useful in the field of science, in which the understanding of the cvonocimientos part of the discoveries made by the individual himself instead of coming directly from the repetition of information.

    Its foundations in constructivism

    Learning through discovery, advocated by Bruner, is part of constructivism, Which argues that learning depends on the construction of knowledge by learners or students: it is an active and not a passive process, in which, through processes of assimilation and adaptation of new knowledge, the subject acquires knowledge.

    It is relevant that the knowledge is meaningful, that is, the new information must be able to be linked to previous knowledge and patterns in order to be able to understand and make sense of it. It also pays great attention to the intrapsychic and contextual factors of the educational process, emphasizing among the former on intellectual capacities and above all motivation to learn.

    However, while it may seem that discovery learning is necessarily linked to meaningful learning, the truth is that this modality or pathway on its own does not in itself imply that learning is meaningful, so it does not. cannot match.

    And it is possible that significant learning will occur through reception, as long as information from outside allows it. building knowledge from previous diagrams through assimilation and accommodation.

      The learner: an active ingredient

      One of the most relevant elements of discovery learning is that allows the student or learner to be an active subject in their own construction of knowledge, In order to be able to more easily give meaning to the new material and organize it according to his interests and prior knowledge.

      It also allows the subject to develop the ability to think on their own and critically with existing material, as well as to be able to improve lateral thinking and increase feelings of self-efficacy in the long run. It is also linked to high levels of interest and motivation on the part of the student to learn.

      The role of the teacher

      On the contrary, in a more traditional and mechanistic teaching, in which the teacher is a transmitter or a source of the knowledge that the pupils receive and from which to acquire information, in discovery learning, the role of the teacher exchange.

      In discovery learning, the teacher acts as a guide which provides the tools to the subject to develop knowledge for himself, rather than acting as a source of knowledge which transmits it to passive receiving subjects.

      In this sense, a scaffolding is generated, so that the learner relies on the help that the professional gives him in a tight way but without ceasing to build knowledge.

      Points in favor of this type of learning

      Discovery learning has a number of great advantages over other types of learning. To begin with, it is a type of learning that encourages creativity, As well as taking advantage of and encouraging the intrinsic motivation to learn so that the learner seeks to learn not through possible external motivators but through the pleasure of learning itself.

      It also encourages the student to learn to learn, to promote metacognition and the ability to seek information, to synthesize it and to criticize it. he also favors developing problem-solving skills and researching hypothesis testing, As well as accepting and learning from mistakes.

      In addition, it should be kept in mind that this type of learning can be more easily adapted to the tastes, desires and capacities of the students, by not focusing so much on one type of knowledge as on what the subject wants. .

      In addition to this, it is easier for the subject to feel more independent and to take a more active and creative role in his daily life. He also empowers the subject by making him the protagonist of his learning, contributing to his greater independence.

      possible drawbacks

      Considering the above points, it may seem that discovery learning is always a positive and beneficial thing for knowledge development, but it also has a number of drawbacks that some authors have criticized such procedures. .

      In this sense, it has been suggested that the learnings obtained may be positive and useful, but may be ineffective due to the great difficulty of transferring this type of learning to classrooms with a large number of topics.

      On the other hand, the fact of depending on the motivation of the subject can make that the discoveries made leave out material or elements that although they are not desirable for the subject can be useful from day to day. It can also make it harder to deal with frustration by having to do unwanted or interesting tasks.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Barrón, A. (1993). Discovery learning. Inadequate principles and applications. Journal of Research and Teaching Experiences, 11 (1),
      • Barrón, A. (1991). Discovery learning. Critical analysis and theoretical reconstruction. Salamanca. Amarú 8 Teaching material: Methodology and didactics of the teaching-learning process. Ministry of Education and Culture.
      • Bruner, J. (1966). Towards a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
      • Camargo, A. and Hederich, C. (2010). Jerome Bruner: Two cognitive theories, two forms of meaning, two approaches to science education. Psycho-manager, 13 (24).
      • Pou, J and Gómez, M. (1998). Learn to teach science. from everyday knowledge to scientific knowledge. Spain: Morata.
      • Prats, MM, Sánchez-Jiménez, V., Sánchez-Queija, I., Mora-Merchán, JA, Reina, MC, De Rei, R., Ortega-Rivera, J., Pertegal, MA, Reina, MM and Ridao , P. (2014). Main theoretical models before the teaching and learning process. Handbook of educational psychology for teachers of child and primary education. Pyramid editions

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