“Discovery learning” is great, except when it’s ineffective, says Reform K12.
The discovery learning method is a way for teachers to allow the child to discover things for himself or herself, because when a child makes the discovery, the learning is much deeper and more likely to be remembered. That spark of “Eureka” or “I have found it!” is what kindles the true flame of learning.
Actually, we don’t disagree, it’s just we have a better proposal: Teach! Students will learn a lot more in less time.
Just so there’s no misunderstanding, we fully support the responsible use of guided discovery in the classroom. Master teachers have known this for years.
What we don’t support is the abandonment of direct instruction, especially for some key concepts and techniques which must be taught.
For example, in the University of Chicago’s Everyday Math program, they don’t recommend teaching children the long division algorithm, saying “let the children discover a division algorithm for themselves.” (The program also embraces calculator use starting with Kindergarten, so we bet we know which “algorithm” the kids would pick!)
We were fully grown before we understood completely how the long division algorithm works, so we’d place the chances at our discovering it in childhood, oh, at about zero.
Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”
Good thing Newton didn’t have teachers enamored with the discovery learning method, or he would have been relegated to standing next to the aforementioned giants.
The California Curriculum Commission is urging the state ed board to not to buy K-8 science books that rely heavily on “hands-on” materials.
Thomas Adams, executive director of the curriculum commission, said critics are misrepresenting the panel’s views. He said commission members are trying to balance the need for a comprehensive science curriculum with the limited science background of many K-8 teachers. Twenty to 25 percent of hands-on instruction seemed like “the most reasonable amount of time for someone faced with the challenges of limited facilities and limited time,” he said.
Kimberly Swygert says too much lab work can become busy work. Smart teachers call it “hands on, brain off.”