Sunday, February 10, 2008

Instructional Guidance rather than
Pure Discovery

Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning?
The Case for Guided Methods of Instruction

Richard E. Mayer
University of California, Santa Barbara

American Psychologist, Vol. 59 (2004) pp. 14-19. (PDF format)

The author’s thesis is that there is sufficient research evidence to make any reasonable person skeptical about the benefits of discovery learning practiced under the guise of cognitive constructivism or social constructivism as a preferred instructional method. The author reviews research on discovery of problem-solving rules culminating in the 1960s, discovery of conservation strategies culminating in the 1970s, and discovery of LOGO programming strategies culminating in the 1980s. In each case, guided discovery was more effective than pure discovery in helping students learn and transfer. Overall, the constructivist view of learning may be best supported by methods of instruction that involve cognitive activity rather than behavioral activity, instructional guidance rather than pure discovery, and curricular focus rather than unstructured exploration. For promoting constructivist learning involve cognitive activity rather than behavioral activity, instructional guidance rather than pure discovery, and curricular focus rather than unstructured exploration. The self-correcting nature of scientific research can be useful in guiding educational decisions about which instructional methods work under which circumstances for which learners.


The Pure Discovery Method is well documented as nonsense.

Here is an article with relevant statistics showing that pure discovery does not work:

Honest Follow-through Needed on this Project

by Marian Kester Coombs
March 24, 1998
The Washington Times


Since Math education was far from perfect in the past, OSPI has substituted total nonsense in its place.

It appears that OSPI resists internationally competitive standards and accompanying well established curricula from Singapore because that plan would work and thereby slightly reduce the enormous size of the OSPI bureaucracy.

Dr Bergeson is proposing that Washington have its own standards and that publishers build materials for Washington.

It is much easier to use a well proven round wheel than expensively develop a trapezoidally shaped new one, which given the OSPI Math track record is virtually guaranteed not to work.


You might like to visit:
The Association for Direct Instruction


Anonymous said...

Mayer's research incorrectly cites J.S. Bruner, Harvard Review (1961) - should be Jerome Bruner, not John Bruner.

Anonymous said...

Someone should check Wikipedia, under constructivism it does appear to have been coopted by standards-based reformers. Marc Tucker is listed as a theorist.

There's also an example of an advertisement claiming to use 'constructivist' ideas? linked to this page. I looked up the who?

Adaptive Curriculum is an online learning solution provided by Sebit LLC, based in Tempe, Arizona. Adaptive Curriculum is Sebit's newest state-of-the-art e-learning solution consisting of a rich library of science and math Activity Objects designed to help students develop skills aligned to national and state standards.

Sebit is an education technology innovation company focusing on empowerment of learners and educators at the K-12 level. The Sebit team has worldwide experience of more than a decade in developing e-learning solutions by combining research-based pedagogy with state-of-the-art visualization and interaction.

Next years business solution for education probably:

SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, soon will be the home for two global U.S. headquarters.

Sebit, an eLearning company from Turkey, and Ubidyne, a wireless technology developer from Germany, will launch operations in Arizona this month. For both firms, their SkySong operations will be their first entries into the U.S. market.

Sebit, a renowned eLearning leader and innovator in eEducation, has worldwide experience in developing best-in-class education materials for grades K-12 by combining conceptual learning with state-of-the-art visualization and interactivity.

Sebit will maintain a temporary office in Tempe until its SkySong space is ready.

Sebit engineers have U.S. market projects under way, including several eLearning collaborations with ASU. For example, Sebit is working on a “Professional Communities to Support Mathematics, Science and Classroom Behavior” project with ASU faculty members from the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, the College of Teacher Education at the West campus, and the Applied Learning Technologies Institute.

The project is designed to improve mathematics and science education in the Turkish middle-school grades (sixth through eighth grades). Through this partnership, Sebit and ASU are combining experience and expertise to address local and global needs of the educational communities.

Sebit, founded in 1988, has clientele worldwide, including telecommunications giant Siemens, the Malaysian Ministry of Education, the European Commision and Coca-Cola. Siemens engaged Sebit from 2002-2006 to handle its entire eLearning group.

Its easy to make a claim that your product is constructivist. No one knows what it is and second, the product claims it doesn't need a teacher - the correct word is autodidacticism, the antithesis of a classroom teacher, self-directed learning.

This was definitely not the intent of Vygotsky, Dewey, or Piaget, and each would have argued pragmatically that classrooms are not natural settings to begin with.

The shortest path to success is direct teaching. You can't really expect most students to meander through school for a decade and arrive at a positive conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Outcome based education and standards have nothing to do with constructivism - these are the fools who'd have us believe they actually teach children.

Their textbooks can't teach to the lowest standard, even when they pay the maharishi for inspiration. 19 year olds with a fifth grade education. That's the result of all their effort convincing people they were right. I hope they eat their words in h....

Anonymous said...

This is an elearning software group in Seattle.

Apex Learning offers comprehensive courses in Fundamental Math (recommended grades 6-7 and remediation), Introductory Algebra, Algebra I & II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus (AB level), and AP Statistics.

The programs, which use interactive instruction with practice problems, tests, enrichment activities and real-world applications, are offered online by subscription. Courses are suitable for classroom use, distance learning, homeschooling, and tutoring.

Apex Learning was started in 1997 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen on the idea that online courses and test prep, which were already succeeding in higher education, could be applied to K-12. The original focus of the company was providing online Advanced Placement courses and test prep, and AP remains a core part of Apex Learning's business. In the company’s first full year, Apex Learning served 200 students.

AL also owns Boxer Math (2003) - I'm pretty sure that's DeSessa's project.

Anonymous said...

This is a fairly legitimate piece of research. But you can see from reading - how the math and technology debates are similiar. Boxer (diSessa) is software that constructs knowledge (AP-classes); and the Direct Instruction model (Carnine) which is the drill-type model or CAI (support classes). I view them as polar extremes of the teaching spectrum.

What makes this debate prove meaningless is neither pov is appropriate for the way children learn in school. Look at the way other country's develop their standardized curriculum and it is not the same. Strict protocols are observed and the implementation is carefully planned. Yes, we pride ourselves on experimentation, but it is not controlled and it is usually imposed. This is not being objective and its a wasteful use of time and human potential.

Schools were designed to be efficient institutions to mass educate children in order to move them out of poverty. It is now quite the opposite. We are moving kids into poverty, not out of it. What we use to teach kids has got to be changed or there is clearly no longer a social contract between the public and this institution. And nothing will be further gained until we do.

Anonymous said...

7. Campbell’s Law [Campbell (1975)]:
The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more
subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and
corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.
Nichols & Berliner (2005) cite the voluminous evidence of the malfunctioning of the
NCLB as consistent with Campbell’s Law and also (incidentally) consistent with
Robert Sternberg’s (2004) “Dozen Reasons Why the No Child Left Behind Act is
Failing Our Schools” [see also Hake (2004d)].