Discovery learning: zombie, phoenix, or elephant?
Received: 16 January 2018 / Accepted: 19 January 2018 / Published online: 5 February 2018
Ó The Author(s) 2018. This article is an open access publication
Abstract 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. 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 to
a higher level. 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.
Keywords Discovery learning Á Direct instruction Á Educational theory Á Guided
reinvention Á Sublation
Few topics in the educational and learning sciences have led to such heated debate as
discovery learning. The wonderful side of the debate is manifold. First, it shows that the
topic is at the heart of what education and learning are about. Second, it has inspired many
scholars over decades to write poetically and use strong rhetorical techniques to persuade
Commentary for the special issue on discovery learning guest-edited by Dor Abrahamson and Manu Kapur.
& Arthur Bakker
Freudenthal Institute, Utrecht University, Princetonplein 5, 3584 CC Utrecht, The Netherlands
Instr Sci (2018) 46:169–183