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A Critique of Learning by Discovery / למידת התגלית: מעמדה בתיאוריה, במחקר וביישום

סמי מרעי, גרי א. דיוויס, SAMI KHALIL MAR'I and GARY A. DAVIS
Studies in Education / עיונים בחינוך
H. 35 (חשון תשמ"ג — אוקטובר 1982), pp. 19-44
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23392701
Page Count: 26
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A Critique of Learning by Discovery / למידת התגלית: מעמדה בתיאוריה, במחקר וביישום
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Abstract

This article offers a critical analysis of discovery learning, and deals with the central issues in theory, research, and application. The authors point out that the rationale for discovery learning relates to the explosion of knowledge on the objective plane and the nature of the learner on the subjective one. Discovery "forms" are extrapolated from the existing body of theoretical and empirical research. Mar'i and Davis compare the discovery strategy with other methods of teacher-learning, namely traditional rote learning, Ausubel's cognitive meaningful verbal learning, and the teaching of creativity. Whereas discovery is the antithesis of rote or meaningful verbal learning, it is extremely difficult to distinguish it from the creative approach to teaching and learning. A special chapter was devoted to the expected benefits of learning by discovery. However, when empirical evaluative research was reviewed, it became clear that many of these benefits are controversial not only in the normative value-judgement domain, but more importantly from a scientific point of view. Empirical research has failed to either support or refute the discovery hypothesis. No clear, consistent pattern of results exists on any variable of the discovery method. This appears to be due to two complementary factors. First, there is no agreement as to the operational definition of either the independent or the dependent variables. The definition remains vague and empirical research was performed too hastily. The second factod relates to the quality of the research itself. No clear differentiation between treatment and effect exists : tasks are often arbitrary; data is often insufficient; statistical analyses are in many cases inadequate; and the experimental situations are far from being conductive to transfer into the real world classroom situation. The paper concludes with two suggestions. First, as Bruner has indicated, discovery learning should be used and applied more and then examined for the dynamics of success and failure. Second, as Strike has indicated, the theoretical analysis and formulation of the discovery method are far from being satisfactory. Thus, it becomes necessary to theoretically reformulate the concept and theory of discovery learning in a more logically cohesive manner. In fact, the integration of these two suggestions should help to clarify some of the vague aspects of discovery and thus enable researchers to launch sound designs.

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