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Discovery Learning: Zombie, Phoenix, or Elephant?

ISAIJLS Volume 46, Number 1, ISSN 0020-4277


Discovery learning continues to be a topic of heated debate. It has been called a zombie, and this special issue raises the question whether it may be a phoenix arising from the ashes to which the topic was burnt. However, in this commentary I propose it is more like an elephant--a huge topic approached by many people who address different aspects. What is needed in the discussion about discovery learning and related approaches, I argue, is "sublation": the kind of lifting up from the one-dimensional discussion between two extremes (minimal guidance vs. direct instruction) that puts an end to the everlasting tug of war by integrating justified concerns from both opposite positions. I evaluate how the different contributions to the special issue help to sublate the discussion about discovery learning. In particular, the case study presented by Trninic illustrates how strong guidance and repetition may be needed for the discovery of something that cannot be told. I further suggest scaffolding, inferentialism, and design research as potential theoretical and methodological ways forward.


Bakker, A. (2018). Discovery Learning: Zombie, Phoenix, or Elephant?. Instructional Science: An International Journal of the Learning Sciences, 46(1), 169-183. Retrieved April 1, 2023 from .

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