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Dewey(1938) proposed the need for education to turn away from traditional, classroom-based education where body and mind are separated to an integrative approach where students may find opportunities to find (and construct) meaning in experiences that reflect life outside school. Piaget (1970) identified cognition as an active and constant process of interacting with the environment. Vygotsky’s conception of development related more to the role of social interaction as partners works together to solve a problem jointly. All their works – inspired by the ideas of Dewey and Freire – leads to the theory of discovery learning through an inquiry based interaction model.

Effectiveness of Discovery Learning

Theoretically, discovery learning has a great advantage over traditional learning but its practice is not common. A debate in the instructional community now questions the effectiveness of this model of instruction (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). Bruner (1961) suggested that students are more likely to remember concepts if they discover them on their own. This is in opposition to those that are taught from textbooks. However, Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) report there is little empirical evidence to support discovery learning. Kirschner et al. suggest that fifty years of empirical data does not support those using these unguided methods of instruction.

Mayer (2004) proposes that interest in discovery learning has waxed and waned since the 1960s. Mayer asked the question “Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning?” While discovery for oneself may be an engaging form of learning, it may also be frustrating.

The main idea behind these critiques is that learners need guidance (Kirschner et al., 2006), but later as they gain confidence and become competent then they may learn through discovery.

Success with Inquiry-based Learning

In response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark studies were conducted supporting success of Problem based learning and Inquiry Learning. In a study comparing traditional and problem-based instruction in high school economics, Mergendoller, Maxwell, and Bellisimo (2006) found that across multiple teachers and schools, students in the PBL course gained more knowledge than the students in a traditional course. (Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, and Chin, 2007)

Theory to Practice

A change has been taking place as the discovery learning practice is replacing the traditional mode of teaching in elementary classes in the school (Lawson, 2008).

Application in the classroom. In the classrooms instead of reading textbooks to the child, different activities are planned by the teacher and class coordinator which give the concept of related study. The teacher asks specific questions which are then explored by the class involving participation from the students. Thus by this interactive approach results are incurred and lessons are learned by students. Evaluation of student is made through observing participation of the child in the activity and the ability to complete the process with understanding and interest. A teacher is there for guidance through the designed process. Among smaller children, picture-based activity can arise interest. Older children may use more graphical details. In the set of activities, students create their own picture books or try to describe an image with precision and accuracy. (Royce,2007). Early childhood curriculum resulting in science learning and early literacy development Related work has been reported by a variety of science education researchers (Sandall, 2003). According to Kali and Linn (2008), visualizations play a large role in helping science learning at both the elementary and middle school level because it makes unseen and complex material visible. Another proposed active learning is through digital stories, Digital story authorship encourages them to engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate what they are working on (Davison, 2009). Additionally, Davison (2009) found the entire process of taking observations, creating, and watching digital stories with her grade 2 class (during a science activity) increased her class’ sense of community. Moreover each child’s classroom science experience is different. Recognizing the various ways children can communicate science knowledge is teacher’s responsibility (Britsch and Heise, 2006)

Outcomes. Various studies have been conducted by researchers to derive the outcome of child understanding of relevant concept and education through discovery learning and following results were observed:

Improvement in understanding. As compared to the student having taught by traditional approaches, the student having taught by discovery learning method of inquiry based hands on science instruction the student displays more understanding of the concepts of science (Schiller, 2004). Their analysis is thorough and more in-depth in comparison to other category of students that just memorize text without any self experience.

Longer retention. The students grasp the lesson conveyed by performing practical activities and these lessons are retained by their brain system over longer period of time as these activities become a part of their experience.

Application to other areas. The knowledge gained through inquiry based learning is fully understood by the student and when the time arises it can be applied to other areas (Luera, Moyer & Everett, 2005) in the child’s life according to his understanding whereas a child educated through traditional means may not be able to apply gained knowledge at any real time situation due to poor understanding and retention problems.

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