The notion of discovery learning has its origins in the 1960s, with Jerome Bruner one of the first to articulate in detail the potential benefits of instructional approaches with discovery learning at their core (Bruner, 1961). There are a range of related learning design approaches that are similar to or draw on elements of discovery learning, including exploratory learning (De Freitas & Oliver, 2006; Reilly, 1974), inquiry learning (Kuhn, Black, Keselman, & Kaplan, 2000; Rutherford, 1964) and problem-based learning (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980). See Table 5.1 for more about these three types of learning. [. . .] The idea that learning involves active knowledge construction has been used in support of inquiry-based learning approaches in the sciences, including discovery learning involving the use of computer-based simulations (De Jong & Van Joolingen, 1998). [. . .]
A key element of constructivist theories of learning, and one that underpins discovery learning and related instructional approaches, is the idea that each person forms his or her own knowledge representation, building on his or her individual experiences—an idea generally attributed to Piaget (1973). According to constructivist theory, this knowledge representation is constantly reviewed and revised, as inconsistencies between the learner’s current knowledge representation and experience are encountered through active exploration (Bruner, 1962; von Glasersfeld, 1984). Piaget (1973) explains the learning process in terms of equilibration. Equilibration begins with the construction by the individuals of their own internal knowledge representation, or in Piaget’s terms, they accommodate their knowledge representation or schema to fit with their experience. Subsequent experiences that are consistent with this knowledge representation are then assimilated into this schema. New experiences that do not fit with their current knowledge representation result in a further accommodation of their schema to fit with this new experience. Clearly, such an account of the learning process, with its emphasis on constructing and reconstructing an individual knowledge representation through active exploration, has a natural fit with the idea of discovery learning. [. . .]
Source: Dalgarno, B., Kennedy, G., & Bennett, S. (2014). The impact of students’ exploration strategies on discovery learning using computer-based simulations. Educational Media International, 51(4), 310–329. Published by Taylor & Francis. Copyright © 2014 Routledge.
A key aspect of constructivist theory is that learners construct their own knowledge, which affects one’s memory development and recall. (The construction of knowledge has also been applied to other learning theories that will be discussed in upcoming sections of this text.) As outlined in this section, constructivism is a theory based on the belief that one’s knowledge is actively constructed and influenced by a person’s environment (Applefield et al., 2000; Dalgarno et al., 2014). Both sets of authors also provide practical strategies that can be used in learning environments and note additional frameworks that include constructivist foundations. Situated cognition (section 5.3) and problem-based learning (section 5.5) will build upon the information about constructivism presented in section 5.1.
Social constructivism (also called dialectical constructivism), the focus of section 5.2, considers how the social aspect of our surroundings influences this construction by suggesting that although we each have the ability to regulate our knowledge acquisition, social mediators can influence all learners without their conscious recognition of the impacts. These effects also blur the line between psychology and sociology (the study of society), and thus open a plethora of considerations for understanding how a person learns and how a person learns most effectively.