The equivalence of learning paths in early science instruction: effect of direct instruction and discovery learning.

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Abstract or Description

In a study with 112 third- and fourth-grade children, we measured the relative effectiveness of discovery learning and direct instruction at two points in the learning process: (a) during the initial acquisition of the basic cognitive objective (a procedure for designing and interpreting simple, unconfounded experiments) and (b) during the subsequent transfer and application of this basic skill to more diffuse and authentic reasoning associated with the evaluation of science-fair posters. We found not only that many more children learned from direct instruction than from discovery learning, but also that when asked to make broader, richer scientific judgments, the many children who learned about experimental design from direct instruction performed as well as those few children who discovered the method on their own. These results challenge predictions derived from the presumed superiority of discovery approaches in teaching young children basic procedures for early scientific investigations.




Published In

Psychological Science, 15, 10, 661-667.