Discovery Learning

Standardized tests have a place in the world of education, but they are full of controversy.  A recent article in the Sun-Sentinel discusses this topic.  The growing belief among parents, students, teachers, administrators, and business owners is that teaching to the test does little to prepare students for life after high school. Caty Jusevic, a student in Florida says that standardized test prep throughout her school career “prepared her for the high-stakes SAT” but she also says:  “I think it’s actually taken away from my education.  I feel like in school, all I was being taught was how to take a test.”
There is not enough time spent on higher level thinking, problem solving, and critical thinking going on. Opponents of such standardized tests say that “it simply encourages teachers to teach to the test”.  This is the core of the problem.  Our students can take and pass tests, but are they making meaningful connections to the material they’re learning?  Can they apply that knowledge to real problems?  Is there retention of the information they’ve learned?  The overwhelming belief is that the increased focus on standardized tests are doing a disservice to our students by not allowing meaningful learning to occur.  

The difference can be summed up like this:  Traditional educational philosophy has been that teachers impart knowledge through lessons and therefore kids learn [which supports a test-driven system]; a new approach to education supports a philosophy that is inquiry and discovery based and believes that learning comes from the process of doing [it’s more of a journey, not an means to an end].  An emphasis on test-taking, which begets a teaching to the test approach to education is an eye on the prize philosophy which does not create real meaning for kids and does nothing to promote the journey of learning.  

“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives…” (Bonwell).

In the discovery learning method, the individual has the potential to understanding the information from his/her own perspective by becoming more involved in the learning process than they would in a passive learning environment (Bonwell).

The student is given the information and materials necessary to learn the lesson,, but the students’ interaction may enable them to operate in higher-order thinking such as evaluation and analysis. The emphasis is on quality over quantity, on comprehension of material rather than completetion of a pre-set number of problems to solve. Finally, this method concentrates on the values and morale of the individual to promote overall development (Bonwell).


Bonwell, C. C. Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom Retrieved January 31, 2008, from 0Learning.January%202003.pdf

Link to article in Sun-Sentinel

Foundations of Education Article on Discovery Learning