Tag Archives: Concept Formation

EDU 6526 Week 3: Learning by Discovery

Jerome S. Brunner’s article, Some Elements of Discovery, discusses methods of teaching where students use knowledge and learning from school in meaningful and effective ways.  Tools that students can draw upon when progressing to the next subject, grade, or level.  Rather than focusing on learning new material, students need to discover what they already know to approach new information.  “Discovery teaching involves not so much the process of leading students to discover what is ‘out there,’ but, rather, their discovering what is in their own heads.” (Brunner, 1966)  Students have many skills they can use towards education, they just need the techniques discover them.  Figuring out what they’ve got is the first step to higher learning and thinking.

Brunner compares student’s learning by discovery to concept formation in an example where a class develops ideas of a steadying tool when discussing what the purpose of a compass to draw circles is.  The students collaborated together and made meaning from information they already knew.  When students listened to each other, they found more and more connections which grew the class’s understanding.  ““The children are getting connections that allow them to travel from one part of the system to the other and when something new comes in, they find compatible connections.” (Brunner, 1966)  The students formed their own abstract idea of what a steadying tool is based on evidence they already had in their heads.   Teaching students methods to unlock this potential will lead to productive and effective approaches to all areas of their education.


Brunner, J. S. (1966). Some Elements of Discovery. Learning by Discovery: A Critical Appraisal.

Rand McNally & Company: Michigan.