Discovery learning: Novak and Cañas (2008) define discovery learning as a type of learning in which the "individual discerns patterns or regularities in events or objects and recognizes these as the same regularities labeled by older persons with words or symbols. So, the attributes of concepts are identified autonomously by the learner. This is a phenomenal ability that is part of the evolutionary heritage of all normal human beings" (p. 3). They exemplify that the first concepts "are acquired by children during the ages of birth to 3 years, when they recognize regularities in the world around them and begin to identify language labels or symbols for these regularities. ... This early learning of concepts is primarily a discovery learning process."

On the other hand, Bruyckere, Kirschner, and Hulshof (2015) explain that "discovery learning", "which is sometimes also referred to as self-discovery or active learning, was launched by Jerome Bruner in the 1960s. According to Bruner, education needs to be organized in such a way that the learner interacts with the material to be learned in an active and self-investigatory manner. It is intended that the child should learn to think and solve problems independently. This corresponds closely with the arguments of Piaget, who stated:

Each time one prematurely teaches a child something he could have discovered for himself, that child is kept from inventing it and consequently from understanding it completely (Piaget, p. 715)


On the other hand, following the discussion I initiated a while ago about active learning vs. engaged learning, it seems that they are different names for the same concept.

Inductive Learning: Kornell and Bjork (2008) defines inductive learning as "learning a new concept or category by observing exemplars—happens constantly, for example, when a baby learns a new word or a doctor classifies x-rays" (p. 1).

Now the question is if there is any difference between these types of learning or they are just different names used in different contexts for the same concept?


  • Novak, J. D., & Cañas, A. J. (2008). The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them.
  • De Bruyckere, P., Kirschner, P. A., & Hulshof, C. D. (2015). Urban myths about learning and education. Academic Press.
  • Kornell, N., & Bjork, R. A. (2008). Learning concepts and categories: Is spacing the “enemy of induction”?. Psychological science, 19(6), 585-592.
  • $\begingroup$ Inductive learning seems to be fairly separate, as the learner is in the presence of many exemplars (things demonstrated many times keep the child from "inventing" it on their own). $\endgroup$
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Oct 11, 2017 at 7:52