What Is Heuristic Learning?
Derived from the Greek ‘to discover’ or ‘to find’, heuristic learning is “a method of teaching which involves our placing of children as far as possible in the attitude of a discoverer” (Professor Henry Armstrong, 1848-1937). Students are encouraged to work on finding out the answers to questions or issues by themselves. Its main principles include developing an insight into the problem that is needed to be solved; creating a plan of action to address the issue; acting on this plan and adapting if necessary; evaluation. Young people already use heuristics in everyday life based on their own experience and knowledge, as it means less time thinking about small decisions (ie it’s raining – should I walk to school or take the bus?), quickly arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. However, heuristic learning is not used to its full potential in senior schools and this means many students miss out on a vital area of self-directed learning.
Why Should Schools Instil Heuristic Learning?
It is all too easy for senior school teachers, given limited time and resources and who are focussed on quick results, to take a more algorithmic approach to learning. Giving students a step by step procedure on how to solve a task rather than encouraging self directed learning may solve one immediate problem but limits future potential by not setting students up to be able to explore answers for themselves.