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“When Teaching Restrains Discovery”


As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of inductive learning — the idea of providing examples so that students discover the concept or rule (in a scaffolded way) instead of the teacher providing the concept or rule and having students implement them (deductive learning).

I write extensively about how I apply this concept in the classroom in my book on teaching English Language Learners and in my upcoming book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Challenges.

The great blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science (hosted at Discover), recounts a new set of experiments that demonstrate the importance of this instructional method in a post titled “When Teaching Restrains Discovery.”

It’s a little too extensive for me to explain here, so I’d encourage you to read the post there about a new paper describing the experiments. Here’s how the post ends:

Bonawitz [the lead researcher] quotes the famous child researchers Jean Piaget, who said that the “principal goal of education” was to create people “who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done”. If we’re going to do that ,we’ll need to find ways of encouraging that natural instinct to investigate, play and explore, rather than suppressing it…

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Larry,

    Thanks for putting this notion out there ……

    It isn’t exactly rocket science and I think many teachers know how well it works. However, we continue to teach on auto pilot in most cases – teaching how we were taught. We are victims of our own schooling!

    Yet it has to change and will change. I wrote recently about a wonderful lecture by Sugata Mitra. Any and all teachers have to watch – a must on how learning flourishes through his teaching method of “I’m going away”.

  2. principal goal of education” was to create people “who are capable of doing new things.

    I respectively disagree. The principal goal of education is to help people, students and teachers both, to understand the material. Understanding means being able to state the basic principles, logical conclusions, and empirical verifications. Teachers should understand how students think and build from there using the principles. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better”.

    The stress on doing new things fails to stress the need for rational thought, and this is an issue stressing our country. See the new book, “Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living”. Rational thinking means starting from basic principles, applying logic, and checking with empirical verification.

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