The other day, a friend and I were discussing a school where children were encouraged to discover new things on their own. He’d shown me an article describing the children learning to build or assemble some structure. It reminded me of an instructional process I’d learned almost forty-five years ago at Philmont Scout Ranch. I still use the process to great effect today.
The process I learned has five steps and works well for youth as well as adults:
This method is based heavily on the idea of constructivism in learning. It is a kind of problem-based learning or experiential learning. Each of these concepts has supporters and detractors, and it is way beyond the scope of this post to discuss their arguments. But, I know that in one afternoon I learned not only how to set up a search grid, but how to employ this teaching method.
Parents tell me that they unconsciously use this method with children. They give them a (fun) task, see how they try, show them a way to do it right, watch them do it, and then remind them what they learned.
Whether it is with children, youth, or adults, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the learners might exhibit a better way to do things during the guided discovery! This makes the whole process a learning experience for everyone and the teaching-learning can become “another way”.
The first step needs to be interesting or fun or otherwise gain the interest of the learners. That’s important for making them ready for the teaching-learning.
Finally, this seems to work better in some areas than others. It doesn’t always have to involve physical activity, but it works especially well when it does. The guided discovery works best for adults when there are one or more groups of learners sharing the experience.
I hope you have a chance to try this process. There are other effective teaching processes, of course, but I’ve found this one to be particularly useful.