What is Discovery Driven Learning?

What is Discovery Driven Learning

Traditionally learning is delivered through a learning plan, a session plan or a course plan which is a pre-decided list of topics which a teacher prepares and delivers to their students in class. This is a teacher-driven learning method where the students are supposed to learn what the teacher intends them to. They may or may not develop an innate desire to learn what the teacher intends to teach them. This makes the learning process tedious as it tends to be ‘forced upon’ the children sometimes against their inherent will and natural tendencies. Students, especially young kids, are inherently curious and they may not follow the pattern of learning which is pre-decided.

Discovery-driven learning is a teaching methodology that allows children to explore, discover and learn while they do so. There is no pre-set plan or learning agenda in discovery-based learning. The learning topics emerge while the students explore various topics and ‘stumble upon’ some useful learning during their discovery process. Learning is more student-driven. As the students’ minds wander and wander, they learn exciting new things. The simple fact that nothing is being forced upon them reduces the resistance children usually demonstrate while learning based on a pre-decided plan. Learning is achieved through their unique experiences which makes learning more sustainable and deep-rooted. It is an inquiry-based learning method where the students chart their personalised learning journey, they construct their knowledge without any instructions from the teachers.

This blog talks about the various elements of discovery-driven learning and the pros & cons of this method of learning.

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Encourages active student engagement

Instruction-led learning has the instructor at the centre and driving all the learning activities while the students are largely passive or semi-active responders to the instructor. On the other hand, the instructor takes the back seat and the students take centre stage in discovery-led learning. Since the learning is driven by the students, this format of learning encourages active engagement of the students. They are the ones in command of the situation. It is the students that decide how to evolve the situation, not the teacher. As against instructor-led learning where there are possibilities of students staying aloof, in discovery-led learning the students need to be actively engaged in the discovery of learning.

Increases Learning Motivation

Human beings have an inherent resistance towards being ‘told’ to do something. This sense could be especially enhanced in children, even more so among teenagers. This makes instructor-led learning methods tedious, inefficient and difficult to execute. The key reason is a lack of motivation for engaging in the learning process. Discovery-based learning method puts the onus on the students to explore, thus enhancing their inherent motivation to learn. The need for external forms of motivation such as marks, rewards, and recognition cease to exist in this format as the motivation and the urge to learn comes from within as it is a self-driven learning process.

Autonomy and Responsibility

Discovery-driven learning delivered an eclectic mix of autonomy with responsibility for the students. Since it is the students who decide the learning path, they have the autonomy to take the course they feel is suitable. However, the onus also results in ownership and responsibility as there is no one else to blame if they end up with no learning.

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Develops creativity and problem-solving skills

If a child or a group of children are left alone with a problem to solve, they will think of creative ways to solve that problem. This method puts no restriction on their creativity in the problem-solving process. They thus develop creativity in problem solving which is a higher order skill. On the other hand, “telling” them how to solve the problem puts the onus of simply applying the techniques to solve the problem, a lower-order learning skill. Discovery-driven learning methods thus lead to the development of creativity and problem-solving skills in children.

Personalised learning experiences

No two learners can arrive at the same discovery path. This means that discovery-based learning has the potential to deliver extremely personalised and unique learning experiences to children. The way we all think about problems and situations is unique. This uniqueness also lends us to different preferences when it comes to learning. Discovery-based learning allows for this uniqueness to flourish and delivers unique and personalised learning experiences that are long-lasting for children.

Risk of no discovery

While there are many advantages, there are some disadvantages of discovery-based learning as well. If the instructor, the teaching environment or the students fail to execute the method well, it is possible that there might not emerge learning. For example, if you leave a group of students to discover the solution to a problem, a naughty set of students can just hijack the class and not end up learning anything material at all. You end up wasting time and the problem still lies unsolved with no residual learning.

Could be time-consuming

Discovery is always time-consuming. Imagine you are wandering about on the streets, taking whichever turn you feel like without any instructions from our go-to Google Maps. What are the chances we will chance upon an exciting place in quick time? Not very high, right? Similarly, discovery-based learning methods also could be a tedious and time-consuming exercise if the students were to arrive at certain significant learning.

Teachers need to be well trained

To minimise the risk of no learning and optimise the time of discovery, the teachers must be well-trained to execute discovery-based learning. This method is not something anyone can execute with ease. It requires heightened skills in facilitation, keen attention to detail, and an ability to subtly nudge the students in the right directions without necessarily resorting to instructions. Teachers need to play a key role in discovery-based learning. In contrast to instruction-led learning, the role in discovery-led learning is more of a facilitator and guide subtly nudging them in the right direction without explicitly telling them where to look.

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This may not apply to all situations

Discovery-based learning methods need to be applied very selectively as they may not suit all learning situations. Instructors who are well-trained in this methodology will be able to identify situations tailor-made for discovery-based learning. If used wrongly, it can prove to be extremely counterproductive.

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