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Discovery-based learning

  1. Oct 8, 2008 #1
    I would like people's opinions on discovery-based learning. Have you any experience with it? I am in a stat's class right now in which both the teacher and textbook use it. Students are discouraged and frustrated to say the least.

    Any thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2008 #2


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    The teacher needs to supply formal instruction to explain the "discoveries" which the students find. The students' job is NOT to recreate the subject, but is to perform exercises and find trends of data and experience various forms of data display, and build some familiarity. Then, the teacher needs to clarify and help refine the knowledge and skills which the students are studying. If students have experience with something, then teaching it is more successful than if students have no experience with that something.

    The basic idea of discovery-based learning could work in statistics, but probably is a bad idea for Algebra, Geometry(depending on level of knowledge needed), Trigonometry, Calculus, and many others. The teacher then needs to solidify any inadequacies in the discoveries using traditional directed teaching.
  4. Oct 9, 2008 #3


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    Actually, some aspects of college preparatory Geometry can be converted into exercises to help in discovery based learning, after which mor formal instruction is needed to consolidate learning (just as in a lower-level statistics class).
  5. Oct 9, 2008 #4
    Teacher walks around the classroom offering help while we work independently. It's like getting five percent of a lecture because I have to share him with the other 19 students. If a teacher lectures, you get 100 percent of it. He offers help outside of class whatever it takes, but for those whose schedules are "full", it makes it difficult. One girl was in tears the other day because of the workload coupled with not knowing what to do.
  6. Oct 9, 2008 #5


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    What kind of activities are assigned in the classroom? Not having seen the written instructions of your either handouts or activity manual, judging the instruction is not reasonable - we can only guess based on the general information you have presented so far.
  7. Oct 9, 2008 #6

    Andy Resnick

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    We use discovery-based learning here in the Medical School. The idea of discovery-based learning is that you, the student, is made responsible for learning the material rather than the instructor responsible for teaching a specific list of topics. In general, it can work really well if:

    1) The students have a clear understanding of what is required of them.
    2) The students are able to independently learn.
    3) The instructor is effective at keeping the discussion on track.

    Discovery-based learning will not work, IMHO, if:

    1) The course material consists primarily of factual information that must be mastered (i.e. proofs, worked problems)
    2) The students have no idea what is expected of them.

    Paradoxically, I have more work to do when leading a course discussion than when presenting a lecture. The advantage is that the students can spend more time of subtopics they find interesting and more time addressing concepts they find challenging.
  8. Oct 9, 2008 #7
    We're told to do these two investigations in class, (half of which require a computer program) and then three practice problems at home. That is all. He is available for office hours and is more than willing to help then. But then it is difficult to even know where to begin. It becomes frustrating in class when one has to wait 20 minutes to get an answer on something, especially when you can't move on to the next part of the problem until your question is answered. I can't say whether I approve of this method or not. It is just a huge adjustment.
  9. Oct 9, 2008 #8
    Is there some sort of "learning curve" associated with discovery-based learning?
  10. Oct 9, 2008 #9
    yea, I think most college classes are sort of teach yourself. We may have a semblance of a lecture, but they cover an immense amount of material in a small amount of time and only cover the concepts. The homework requires a mastery of the concepts. Suffice to say, it takes many many hours of self-teaching and many sessions in my professor's office every week to survive class. I'm not dumb. I get A's. It's just really really hard sometimes, and we need to learn to cope with the environment. Don't give up is my only advice. I spend over 30 hours a week studying for my multivariable class a week. The teacher is just really difficulty, but I get by.

    I would also highly recommend reading and studying the material that will be covered in the next class before you arrive. This way you will have had time to implicitly digest the material, making the second attempt at learning the material much easier.
  11. Oct 9, 2008 #10
    Thanks. I will. I've got about a week to get caught up in the class. No football for me this weekend!!
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