discovery learning

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Jean Piaget (1896—1980) Swiss psychologist


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An approach to learning in which the learner is allowed to explore and become actively engaged with concepts, objects, or the physical environment in order to develop their understanding of it. In this process, the teacher is a facilitator rather than an instructor, and it is their role to organize a rich or appropriately resourced learning environment and to encourage the learner's self‐directed curiosity and problem‐solving skills, rather than to demonstrate or provide ‘correct’ answers or procedures. Discovery learning is a learner‐centred approach, theoretically underpinned by a humanist philosophy of education, according to which the planning and teaching of lessons should take into account the learners’ needs in relation to their social, emotional, and personal development, and should take as their starting point those topics which are of direct interest and relevance to the learners. The principles of discovery learning for the education of young children were set out by Piaget, who, while stressing the need for the teacher to adopt a non‐directive and relatively non‐didactic role, nevertheless emphasized the importance of peer interaction in the process of such learning as a means of encouraging the child to engage with and consider viewpoints which perhaps conflicted with their own (a process known as socio‐cognitive conflict) in order to develop their ability to review and revise their own understanding. Piaget argued that, while children might refine and evaluate their own ideas as a result of socio‐cognitive conflict with peers, they would tend to adopt uncritically and too easily the ideas of teachers and other adults where these conflicted with their own. In the latter case the result would be conventional instructional learning rather than learning constructed by the child through their own discoveries.

Subjects: Education.

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