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Exploratory learning; History, advantages and disadvantages

Study guide

Imagine children sitting in science class, tired and bored, listening to their teacher talk or taking notes. Meanwhile, the teacher is explaining the internal organs of the body and explaining them one by one to the students. These pictures are familiar to many of us. Conventional methods of teaching science. But isn’t there a more attractive way? In this memo, you will learn about exploratory learning theory, its history, advantages and disadvantages, as well as its applications.

What is exploratory learning?

Exploratory learning theory encourages learners to learn new knowledge Your previous experiences and knowledge To rely on. Then combine them with intuitive understanding, imagination, creativity, and experimentation and search to gain (discover) new knowledge. According to this theory, learning does not mean absorbing what others have said; Rather, it means using the knowledge of predecessors and combining it with the spirit of search to discover answers and find new solutions.

History of Exploratory Learning Theory

Jerome Brunner

Renowned American psychologist Jerome Brunner first developed the theory of exploratory learning in the 1960s. Learning by doing was what he emphasized. In Brunner’s theory of exploratory learning, learners actively participate in knowledge learning rather than merely receiving knowledge. They interact with their surroundings by searching for and manipulating objects.

This interaction creates an opportunity for them to think, ask questions, guess, and work with others. In this way, they learn the self-confidence necessary to solve the problem and use the already acquired knowledge. On this account, instead of the warehouse student being considered to be filled with knowledge, a person is seen who has previous knowledge and experience. Now this knowledge and experience can be used to learn new knowledge.

Renowned Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, a well-known developmental psychologist, also saw children as philosophers or little scientists. He believed that they should learn to interact with the environment and go through the stages of growth. According to him, children’s participation and involvement with the living environment has an important role in their intellectual development. Therefore, he believed that primary school children should go through the learning process in the school environment by manipulating and touching various objects.

The Five Principles of Exploratory Learning

Exploratory learning can be summarized in 5 principles as follows:

1. Problem Solving

Teachers should guide and encourage students to combine new knowledge and new information to find new solutions to problem solving. In this way, “students” are the main and influential factor in the learning process, who find new solutions by developing their skills and engaging with the problem.

۲. Guide learners

Teachers should allow learners to explore exploratory learning on their own or with the help of others at an appropriate pace. This method, unlike conventional teaching methods, reduces learners’ stress and allows them to learn with ease.

3. Merge and combine

Teachers should teach learners the correct way and principles to combine previous knowledge with new data and encourage them to find applications for what has been discovered.

4. Analysis and interpretation of data

Exploratory learning is process-oriented learning, not content-oriented. Therefore, learners should learn to analyze and interpret the acquired data instead of memorizing what they have learned.

5. Failure feedback

Learning does not just happen when we find the right answer. Exploratory learning does not focus solely on finding the right answers and solutions; Rather, it gives learners the opportunity to learn by making mistakes. Here the teacher’s job is to provide feedback.

Advantages and disadvantages of exploratory learning

Exploratory learning has many benefits, including:

  • Strengthen the sense of independence and self-confidence;
  • Encourage motivation and strengthen students’ creativity;
  • Bringing learners to higher levels of learning;
  • Coordinating methods with students’ learning speed;
  • Appropriate way of teaching children with behavioral problems and learning disabilities.

However, this theory, like any other theory, has its limitations and weaknesses, such as:

  • The need for adequate and appropriate training of teachers in order to find the necessary qualifications to implement it;
  • The need for a precise and orderly framework, as aimless searching and effort may confuse learners;
  • In some cases, learners may be mistaken that they do not need to learn a series of important issues and skills, and that what they have learned is sufficient;
  • Exploratory learning should not be used as a cornerstone of the curriculum, as its implementation in practice faces various limitations and reduces learning.

The importance of teacher training and empowerment in the theory of exploratory learning

The role of teachers is very important in the successful implementation of exploratory learning. Teachers must not only be flexible, they must also be well prepared to implement the methods of this theory. They need to understand how an educational topic can be discovered by students and help advance the curriculum. Teachers need to know the correct way to ask questions and provide feedback to guide students’ discoveries while doing so.

To gain these competencies, teachers must take developmental and learning psychology courses and get to know the different age periods and developmental stages of learners. How to use exploratory learning in the classroom? To apply this theory in the classroom and to use it to enhance students’ learning, we suggest 5 ways:

1. Use the interview to stimulate curiosity

Talking and exchanging ideas with others is always instructive. Ask learners to interview seniors or other teachers about specific topics. During this interview, they learn a lot. Ask them to write the text of the interview and summarize what they have learned.

۲. Encourage learners to do individual research

Use of virtual laboratories in exploratory learning

Give your learners a topic and ask them to research on their own. Encourage them to use different sources to research it. Then everyone shares their results with others.

3. Give them data-driven projects

Provide learners with data on a subject and ask them to analyze, interpret and classify the data and guess possible outcomes and theories. In this way, in addition to promoting exploratory learning, you teach them the importance of data analysis.

4. Use a virtual lab

Sometimes there are not enough facilities or time to do exploratory learning in the conventional way. In this case, you can use simulators; For example, perform an autopsy class with the help of educational software for students and ask them to become skilled and work with a virtual surgical knife.

5. Use the opportunity of mistakes to enrich learning

Mistakes are inevitable when students take control of education in the exploration process. In this situation, use each mistake as an opportunity to learn. Give timely feedback. Help learners identify and correct mistakes and encourage them not to be afraid to make mistakes.


Exploratory learning theory is very popular among developmental and learning psychologists. They believe that learning is achieved by doing. If the teacher considers that the student already has knowledge and experience, then he / she can show him / her that the educational content is related to his / her knowledge and experience.

Successful implementation of this method requires the knowledge and effort of teachers. They should be careful not to engage in an educational activity simply because it is an activity; Rather, focus on directing activities to achieve educational goals.






Exploratory learning; History, advantages and disadvantages

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