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Do It Yourself – The Benefits of Discovery Learning

Last updated 3 years ago

How does learning happen? Do we learn more when we're given information that we memorize and then "regurgitate" for the teacher? Or when we are "thrown into the pool" and told to swim? Somewhere safely between those two extremes are methods that work much better.

Discovery Learning is a process in which we are given information about a topic (content) that is appropriate for our skill level and then encouraged - with guidance - to discover concepts and ideas for ourselves.

In Discovery Learning, we are actively involved in our learning because we:

  • use the knowledge and skills we have to gather new information
  • decide how and what we want to learn about a topic
  • use the tools and sources that reflect real life
  • acquire new skills with reflecting, interpreting, and problem solving
  • enhance self-confidence by focusing on the process rather than finding a "right" answer

While leaving kids to find their way through an assignment alone is definitely not an effective way to help them, Robert Marzano explains that "Enhanced Discovery Learning," which involves "preparing students . . . and providing assistance along the way," is a proven method of building thinking and learning skills.

You can help your kids develop their skills with Discovery Learning at home
Here's an example:

Suppose your kids need to write a report on how the drought in California could affect their future. Of course, they can jump online, Google "Drought in California," and copy from one of the dozens of SFGate articles on the subject. Plenty of information is available, but how much meaning or real learning would there be in this activity?

On the other hand, you could help them discover for themselves how their futures might be impacted. Before going to the Web, you can brainstorm with them about the kinds of information they need. Where can you find facts about the future impact of drought on water supplies? Can you make your report more meaningful with pictures like someone setting up a rain barrel? Your kids might want to do a study to see just how much water each family member uses or an experiment in which they spend a day living with a small ration of water.

As they do these activities, you can ask questions to help your kids explore implications of what they have found, reflect on what they learned, and reach conclusions.

Both you and your kids will be empowered by what you discover!

Talk to our staff at The Literacy & Language Center if you'd like information about Discovery Learning methods. We'd also be glad to give you suggestions about helping your kids boost their skills at home.

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