What can we learn from the failure of minimally guided instruction?

Evidence into Practice

The failure of ‘pure discovery’ learning:

The case against ‘pure’ discovery learning is pretty damning. A number of fairly recent papers have consistently reported that minimally guided instruction simply doesn’t work.

For example:
Mayer – American Psychologist, 2004
Klahr and Nigam – Psychological Science, 2004
Kirschner, Sweller and Clark – Educational Psychologist, 2006

It’s interesting to note that doubts about the efficacy of the approach are not particularly new. Even Bruner (quoted by Tuovinen, here) appeared to hold the view that discovery learning would only play a small role in education.

Although Bruner championed the discovery learning cause, he argued that existing knowledge and culture were not generally passed on by discovery. He wrote (1966, p. 101):

“You cannot consider education without taking into account how culture gets passed on. It seems to me highly unlikely that given the centrality of culture in man’s adaptation to his environment –…

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