The Joy of Discovery Learning

Fire drillThankfully, we have abolished drill and repeated practice from our classrooms. Now, instead of the deadening submission to adult authority, we have the liveliness and joy of youthful discovery. The surprise and delight of finding many different answers to problems has replaced the tyrannical imposition of so-called ‘correct’ answers upon our citizens of tomorrow.

This joy of discovery must now spread to every area of education. Shockingly, the mind-numbing experience of obeying explicit instructions and working silently still exists in some areas of school life. We cannot afford to destroy the free decision making capacities of our democratic youth with such retrograde practices.

A notable example of the survival of right wing, reactionary approaches is the continued practice of fire drill. Fire drill! The very name should send tremors of disgust through all free thinking, right minded people. Unbelievably, even though we are living in the twenty-first century, we are still subjecting our pupils to the psychological trauma of obeying orders and marching silently to the fire assembly area. We might as well make them wear brown shirts and goose step out of their classrooms. The fire bell might as well be replaced by broadcasting ‘The Flight of the Valkyries’ across the school announcement system. This tyranny must stop!

We cannot expect any student to take an interest in a problem imposed upon him by authority, so we must first create a real life problem for students to solve. This could most effectively be achieved by burning down one of the school buildings. To add a further stimulation for real life problem solving, we should ensure one of the cleaning staff is trapped in the building which burns down. Their cries of agony as the flames engulf them will inspire our students to form discussion groups to resolve the fire risk problem.

At no point should we intervene and impose ‘correct’ answers on these groups. Young people’s creativity must not be stifled by artificial adult interference. It may be that they decide to conduct further pyrotechnic experiments, perhaps making use of one of the less popular students. The creative, problem-solving capacities of the young are so powerful that they often come up with surprising approaches that no adult would have considered.

I have no doubt that once the stifling conservatism of the traditional approach is removed, our young people will come up with exciting new ways of dealing with emergencies. And of course, thanks to the innovative methods used, they will actually remember the lessons they have learned. The sacrifice of a school cleaner and one or two of the less popular students is a small price to pay for the true joy of discovery learning!


10 thoughts on “The Joy of Discovery Learning

  1. An interesting and thought provoking post.

    I think this would be a good example of what happens when you feel strongly about an issue, choose to use the most extreme example you can think of and let your imagination run riot.

    Although you give a good feel for the issues that might arise if one chose such an approach to learning in the provided context, for me the example illustrates the importance of using the most appropriate approach for the correct learning transaction.

    You see, there are a good number of examples in which following the fire evacuation procedures ended up with the deaths of the individuals concerned. There are any number of examples where an individual or group of individuals could not use what had been traditionally regarded as the “right answer” to escape from a perilous situation. There are any number of situations where the “right answer” didn’t work.

    In these circumstances it is useful to be able to develop ones own solution being creative on the fly.

    Very few people would disagree with you that having emergency procedures for the majority of circumstances is a good idea. When I was a software designer we had use cases for testing functionality for when people did things in the correct way but we always let people loose on the software to test it in circumstances in which they did things in ways that were not “correct”.

    Your example is a trivial one that puts me in mind of that great philosopher Basil Fawlty….” Can’t we get you on mastermind Sybil, specialist subject the bleeding obvious”.


    • As so you strike again – I think you are a sock puppet but to be honest I don’t really care. It’s sad when someone doesn’t have the courage to be themselves.

      “I think this would be a good example of what happens when you feel strongly about an issue, choose to use the most extreme example you can think of and let your imagination run riot.”

      The entire basis for progressive education is just that and this pernicious ideology that you promote (no I don’t believe your “I use both” smokescreen) without much thinking yourself.

      Knowing one way of escaping a fire safely and understanding the steps that one takes, is a much better basis for thinking of alternatives (because you have a scenario to which you can think of an alternative), rather than allowing children to sit around reinforcing misconceptions with each other.

      In terms of thinking critically, you may wish to start with your own ideas.


  2. PS….most procedures will provide more than one exit option and will leave it to the individual or group to decide which one to use in the circumstances, a sort of discovery learning sort of a thing I.e. if you find the nearest exit blocked find an alternative.


  3. Brian’s answers here remind me of a discussion I had with the head of our provincial math association a couple years ago. I was arguing for the requirement of teaching kids to memorize their times tables, and the need for regular daily practice in the classroom. To illustrate my point, I pointed out that one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time, Wayne Gretzky, probably became that way only after many countless hours of regular practice. The response I received back, was that Gretzky was probably only good because of the instructions he received from his coaches, not due to the hours of practice on the ice. Even when the obvious is pointed out, some would rather point in the other direction and babble on about nonsense if they have an agenda to support. As I said to a friend of mine, I can’t argue with stupid, so that was the last conversation I tried having with this person (even though he’s in charge of the entire provincial math program for over half a million students and 40,000 teachers).

    Based on today’s discussion, it’s obvious anything can be debated if we have enough time. But we don’t. Our kids are being denied a proper schooling based on these pet theories being used in the classroom. We’ve already seen the devastating impact on what pure discovery does to our students. How many more will be left to flounder and fail without proper guidance of knowledgeable teachers paving the way? And the education establishment is more than happy to accommodate this dumbing down of students, by rewriting curricula and getting rid of meaningful learning standards. Graduation exams are way easier than they were a generation ago, and the feel good entitlement era that our kids are surrounded in, does little to acknowledge hard work, practice, and commitment..something that is in direct contrast to inquiry/discovery, student centred learning.

    I’m just a parent, I’m not a scholar, but I would prefer to see a bit more common sense used in the schools. Every week I hear from other parents who are sacrificing their grocery money to send their kids to tutoring centres because they’re not getting proper instruction in the classroom. The edubabble is outrageous, and the arguments about nothing, are rather tiresome.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician are staying in a hotel.
    The engineer wakes up and smells smoke. He goes out into the hallway and sees a fire, so he fills a trash can from his room with water and douses the fire. He goes back to bed.
    Later, the physicist wakes up and smells smoke. He opens his door and sees a fire in the hallway. He walks down the hall to a fire hose and after calculating the flame velocity, distance, water pressure, trajectory, etc. extinguishes the fire with the minimum amount of water and energy needed.
    Later, the mathematician wakes up and smells smoke. He goes to the hall, sees the fire and then the fire hose. He thinks for a moment and then exclaims, “Ah, a solution exists!” and then goes back to bed.
    …I’m a mathematician


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