From Mouse-clicks to Memory – a Research Remix

EDCI 591 Chapter Remix: The Guided Discovery Learning Principle in Multimedia Learning

by: Ton de Jong and Ard W. Lazonder

Summary

Guided Discovery Learning is a process in which students actively interact with an investigation or explore a topic to build understanding and meaning. Constructing knowledge can be more motivating than passively receiving information, but the effectiveness of this model hinges on the supports that are put in place to ensure that the learner is receiving appropriate guidance and direction. The idea is that if you have a learning target in mind, you should ensure that your learners are able to follow a process to discover the intended information. Even within this model there is a spectrum of guidance options that ranges from open, learner-centered free exploration to direct instruction. The focus of this chapter was on Science Education and the use of active investigations and experimentation to encourage student engagement through the use of multimedia simulations. The heart of this model is the idea that content is not directly presented to students, but is instead discovered and constructed by the learners.

Inquiry Models

Inquiry supports the Guided Discovery Learning process by having the students engage in scientific questioning, conducting experiments, and make meaning of their new knowledge. The chapter shared an Inquiry cycle of five phases including orientation, hypothesis generation, experimentation and conclusion. It was noted that the 5 steps are interchangeable and there was a need to add the idea of regulation where students would plan and monitor their learning goals throughout the inquiry process. De Jong and Lazonder also suggest that student learning can be disrupted by the challenges they face during the inquiry cycle. Designers needed to think about what strategies need to be in place to ensure that learners can attain the intended learning goals. 

Examples of Guidance

The following Guidance samples are listed by the level of teaching presence, from least to greatest.

  1. Process Constraints – reducing the complexity of the task by restricting the options available to the learner
    • useful for easing students into challenging information
    • examples: starting with fewer variables in an experiment or moving from a simple to a complex task
  2. Performance Dashboard – shows real time progress as learners acquire information or shows the learning topic as a map.
    • useful for students who are able to regulate their own learning based on the visual feedback
    • examples: concept maps or checklists
  3. Prompts – reminds learners to complete required steps or to engage in certain actions
    • useful for students who are able to perform the tasks but may not do so independently
    • examples: prompts to reflect after viewing a video or hints
  4. Heuristics – tells learners how to perform an activity, reminding them of a specific action or learning process
    • useful for students who may not know when and how to progress in a simulation
    • examples: links to related information or videos or explicit instructions to guide learners actions
  5. Scaffolds – tools that help the learner interact with the activities within the learning activity
    • useful for students who may not understand a particular activity or to support learners engaging in a complex task
    • examples: providing students with the steps of inquiry or a fill-in-the-blank tool to guide a written process
  6. Direct Presentation – sharing the target information directly with the learners. This can be used at the beginning of an inquiry cycle or throughout the learning process.
    • useful for starting a topic in which the learners do not have sufficient prior knowledge

The Research

This chapter explained that direct instruction is more effective than unguided discovery learning. Using Guided Discovery Learning increases the cognitive load on learners, and this will require some thoughtful planning by the teacher. The simulations that were shared as examples in the chapter were all found to be lacking in some way. None of the simulations were found to be truly adaptive to the learners and their differences. None of the simulations were studied for more than 5 weeks, and this was noted as a limitation. The other questions left unanswered by the research were how to support students as they gain confidence, and how to support collaborative learning with differentiated guidance?

Connected Research

I was immediately reminded of our #tiegrad summer studies! I remembered learning about “Edutainment” while reading articles about the acceptance of game-based learning in the classroom. The cautionary language about Edutainment reminds me of the importance of planning carefully on which simulations to include in a classroom and the need to ensure that our learner see value in participating. I am also reminded that a simulation that works with one group of learners may not work with the next.

Paolo Friere (1979) states that the more active a learner is in the discovery of his own learning, the deeper the connections and critical understanding will become. Learners take possession of knowledge that they generate. Through dialogue with others, students will co-construct meaning and create understanding. This is also supported by Bruner’s (1966) work when he shares the idea of games of discovery being far more effective than rote memorization. By solely attempting to impart knowledge to our students, our message can be lost. Bruner tells us that the point of education should be for students to master their learning and deepen their world view.

Relating this to my Practice

When I noticed how short the studies shared in this chapter were, I was concerned that the simulations were being used as “one-off” lessons. I questioned whether all students were being asked to experience the same simulations with the same guidance. I prefer multimedia environments that allow students to explore with a little more freedom. Not all students will enjoy using a simulation to learn a science concept, and the transfer of knowledge from mouse-clicks to memory isn’t a guarantee. I prefer a mixture of technology offerings (simulations, videos, curated links), hands-on items (manipulatives or objects to explore) and ongoing discussions to support learner-constructed knowledge. I also wondered about the research that revealed that direct instruction being more effective than unguided discovery learning cited in the chapter. Since most of the studies were short term, I am wondering if students would adapt to using simulations for learning over time? I also see value in free play and experimenting. Many of the simulations shared in this chapter seemed to be for Higher Education, so I also wonder if the results would differ with Middle School students. I believe that good guidance is essential in learning, but the most intuitive and personalized form of support might still come from a teacher and good pedagogy, regardless of the learning medium.

Examples of Learning Simulations

Some of the learning simulations that my students have used range from Edutainment-style games to Math models and free discovery-based learning. I’ve included some below.

Interactive simulations for Science and Math: http://phet.colorado.edu/

Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org

Discovery Education Canada (to enjoy full simulations and interactivity you will need access to the various Techbooks available) http://www.discoveryeducation.ca/Canada/

I also use SMARTTechnologies Notebook software which includes a variety of simulations http://education.smarttech.com/en/products/notebook

BrainPop http://www.brainpop.com/

Cellcraft by Kongregate (another great source to search through for simulations)http://www.kongregate.com/games/cellcraft/cellcraft This one was shared by a student during our unit of study on cells!

 

References:

Bruner, J. (1966, 2013). Man: A Course of Study. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 79 – 93). New York: Routledge.

deJong, T. & Lazonder, A. W. (2014) The guided discovery learning principle in multimedia learning. In R. E. Mayer (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (2nd ed.). (371-390) New York: Cambridge University Press.

Freire, P. (1979, 2013). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 157 – 165). New York: Routledge.

Tuovinen, J. E., & Sweller, J. (1999). A comparison of cognitive load associated with discovery learning and worked examples. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 91(2), 334-341. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.91.2.334

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