Don’t Show, Don’t Tell? Direct Instruction Can Thwart Independent Exploration

Don’t Show, Don’t Tell? Direct Instruction Can Thwart Independent Exploration

New study, to be published in Cognition. Far from being a salvo in the never-ending direct instruction vs. discovery learning war, this a cautionary tale about the subtleties of presentation, especially with small children:

So what’s a teacher or parent to do? Schulz is quick to point out that the study is not an argument against instruction. “Things that you’re extremely unlikely to figure out on your own — how to read, how to do calculus, how to drive a car — it would make no sense to try to learn by exploration,” she says.

Rather, the study underscores the real-world trade-offs between education and exploration, and the importance of acknowledging what is unknown even while imparting what is known. Teachers should, where possible, offer the caveat that there may be more to learn.

“Teachers can say things like, ‘I’m showing you what we think is true, but there are a lot of other possibilities you should consider,’” Schulz says.

In short, she says, “a little humility can go a long way.”

Read through the article and see what a profound effect a slight difference in presentation can have on students. It’s pretty neat.

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