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Discovery Learning, Its Efficiency and Future Essay (Article)

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2020


There is no use denying the fact that the sphere of education has always been topical for human society as it serves as the guaranty of its development, evolution, and prosperity. That is why there were many attempts to outline the most efficient forms of education that can help to develop the cognitive abilities of a person and supply him/her with the needed information. In the process of development of the given sphere, a great number of various approaches have been created and analyzed. It is possible to say that peculiarity of every period of time and the ideas that are dominant in society influence the way in which people are taught.

With this in mind, the fact that nowadays, the approach to the sphere of education is being changed is not surprising as society tries to prepare people for social roles they should perform. In the process of reconsideration of the sphere of education and shifting the accents from scholastic to some innovative and cognitive (Constructivism & Discovery Learning, n.d.) forms of learning, the idea of discovery learning has appeared and became discussed. That is why, the main aim of the given paper is to analyze the concept of discovery-based education and make a conclusion about its efficiency and further perspectives, based on the research work Does Discovery-Based Instruction Enhance Learning? By Alfieri, Brooks Aldrich, and Tenenbaum.


First of all, it should be said that the coherent society has a great number of various demands for learners and would-be professionals, which include the ability to find answers to various questions and think critically. That is why Alfieri et al. (2011) state that conventional explicit instruction is nowadays expelled by the approaches based on constructivist concepts. Moreover, the shift towards cognitive forms of thinking could be observed. This method implies the acquisition of knowledge with the help of cognition through the needed questions. Having been popular for several decades, it has resulted in the appearance of various forms of learning that suggest finding answers by themselves. However, these approaches have rather ambivalent character as the use of their usage is not obvious, and this fact introduces a discussion connected with the rationality of the implementation of this concept in the modern educational system.


Discussing the idea of discovery-based learning, Alfieri et al. (2011) also come to the idea that it is rather difficult to give a clear definition of the term as there are thousands of approaches to this method and everyone tries to suggest his/her own vision of the main sense of the given issue. However, based on the nature of the given approach, it is still possible to give some generalized definition of discovery-based learning as the approach which uses inquiry-based tasks and creation discovery learning situations that lead to the acquisition of the needed knowledge or experience (Alfieri et al., 2011).

Thus, the concept of discovery-based learning situation is still unclear as researchers have various points of view on it and suggest their own ideas of what learning situation could be called the discovery-based one. With this in mind, it is possible to say that discovery learning occurs when a learner is not given the information, however, he/she should obtain it by his/her own forces with the help of questions and perception (Alfieri et al., 2011). Moreover, it should also be said that scientists tend to separate two methods of discovery learning which main sense lies in the assignment of learners with intensive or, on the contrary, minimal guidance. (Alfieri et al., 2011)


Moreover, it should be said that in the article Alfieri et al. manage to provide quite reasonable reasons which show that the issue of discovery learning is rather topical though quite controversial and ambivalent. The thing is that despite the numerous ideas that tend to outline great efficiency of the given method, there are also many perspectives which have the more reserved attitude towards the issue, underlining the necessity of deep investigation of all aspects of discovery-based education. With this in mind, the authors conduct a certain study and review the sources connected with the issue in order to prove or refute the popular idea of the beneficial character of discovery-based education. It should also be said that the latest tendencies in the sphere of education introduce the necessity to apply various theories and methodologies in order to investigate the idea of discovery-based education and obtain credible results. With this in mind, the choice of the issue for investigation and results can be taken as very significant for modern science.

Main concepts

Besides, it should be said that in the paper, Alfieri et al. (2011) tend to outline all main principles and regulations according to which this approach to education functions. That is why, the author introduces the discussion about one of the main concepts of discovery-based learning, which is instruction and its character. There are two main directions within the given issue. The thing is that instruction, as well as the guidance during instruction, could be either minimal or maximal. The first variant implies clear and detailed instructions for the process of solving some problem or finding an answer to a certain question. The second one revolves around the total independence of a learner and his/her vision of the process. Thus, these two key concepts could be taken as the basis of the whole model. Thus, it should be said that according to Kirschner, Sweller and Clark (2006) minimal guidance during the instruction turns out to be inefficient, especially in terms of the main purpose of the discovery-based approach to education.


it should be said that the last statement could be taken as one of the most important disadvantages of the given method. Being often taken as rather popular and innovative remedy, discovery-based approach, however, is very often criticized and described as inefficient. The thing is that according to the latest researches it contradicts to the main principles according to which human cognitive architecture is organized (Mayer, 2004). Being not supported by the clear instructions, pupils are not able to create the links in their brain that could help to understand the logic of the assignment and accomplish it perfectly. Moreover, there is another weakness of the given method which lies in the fact that pure discovery cannot be taken as the ideal way to provide knowledge to pupils. It should be always followed by some instructions or another kind of activity that stimulates the process of cognition of a person and influences better acquisition of knowledge (Mayer, 2004).


However, it should also be said that there are several obvious advantages that make the issue of discovery-based learning very interesting for researchers and educators. The thing is that being oriented on the acquisition of knowledge in the process of cognition, the discovery-based education promotes development of analytical skills of a learner and could help him/her to become more independent in his/her assumptions (Kokot, 1999). Moreover, implementation of this theory to the functioning of various educational establishments could help to make the process of studying more efficient by providing some extra time for the communication between a student and teacher. It could become more practice-oriented, while the theory a learner could analyze independently. Finally, the idea that discovery-based education could also be beneficial for people, who aims at obtaining some practical skills, should also be taken into account. It is obvious, that the example and instructions of an experienced person are of a great significance in terms of the acquisition of some practical skills, however, the attempt to analyze some spheres of activity and understand the main peculiarities according to which this activity is organized could have a great beneficial effect on a learner.


That is why, taking into account the ambivalent character of the investigated issue, Alfieri et al. (2011) introduce their own research that aims at investigating the advantages and disadvantages of discovery-based learning and determining conditions under which unassisted discovery learning could lead to better learning outcomes. They introduce results of various investigations performed by different authors in order to compare their results and obtain the needed data. With the help of meta analysis and predictions made in the course of the paper, the authors come to the conclusion that unassisted discovery could hardly be taken as the beneficial way to improve the quality of knowledge and cognitive processes of learners. Thus, at the same time, the authors underline the fact that its usage should not be canceled as it still could be rather efficient for the modern educational system, though supported by certain extra remedies.


First of all, the Alfieri et al. (2011) say that the discovery-based learning could be used for teaching with the intent to improve the level of performance of some traditional ways. The thing is that these traditional ways could be taken as outdated and those, which need some further improvement or enforcement. That is why, the combination of various methods could help to achieve some positive results. Thus, the authors state that sets of tasks with minimal guidance could be provided for learners in order to improve their skills in problem solving and critical thinking (Instructional Design Models and Theories: The Discovery Learning Model, n.d.). Moreover, the ability to outline the needed information and process it could also be trained. Nevertheless, Alfieri et al. (2011) emphasize the fact that the issue of discovery-based education could still be modified in order to create the most efficient and applicable approach that could be used under various conditions and for different purposes.


With this in mind, having analyzed the paper Does Discovery-Based Instruction Enhance Learning? by Alfieri et al. and credible sources, which also revolve around the given issue, it is possible to make a certain conclusion. It should be said that despite the great topicality of this approach, the minimal guidance during instruction and unassisted discover turn out to be inefficient in terms of the modern educational system. That is why, some extra methods should be used in order to achieve significant improvement of the quality of language and the process of cognition. Thu, there are still some perspectives for the further development of the given method and its possible implementations.


Alfieri, L., Brooks, P., Aldrich, N., & Tenenbaum, H. (2011). Does Discovery-Based Instruction Enhance Learning? Journal of Educational Psychology,103(1), 1–18.

Constructivism & Discovery Learning. (n.d.). Web.

(n.d.). Web.

Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75–86

Kokot, S. (1999). . Gifted Education International, 13(3), 269-282. Web.

Mayer, R. (2004). Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning? American Psychologist, 59(1), 14-19.

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