ELTchat summary – Guided Discovery

So out of guilt, seeing as it was my proposal to talk about Guided Discovery, I volunteered to do the summary for the ELTchat that took place on April 4th. The full title was ‘How effective is Guided Discovery in the ELT classroom? Can it help promote learner autonomy?’
Why Guided Discovery, I hear you ask. Well, it all started after Jim Scrivener’s talk at IATEFL about High demand teaching in ELT and the subsequent ELTchat that followed a week later. See summary here by Lizzie Pinard –http://bit.ly/Hr9YCr

I began thinking about how I could implement this in my own classroom and what would really make my students work harder in class and feel as though they have learnt something, rather than simply enjoying the lesson and walking away with relatively little learning actually happening.
Guided Discovery was something I was introduced to on my Trinity Cert course and actually found it rather difficult to get my head around. On a course with so little time and so much to take in I just wanted them to give me the information so I could take it home and study it. I forgot about it and it wasn’t until I read Scott Thornbury’s post on guided discovery that I actually thought about it again. http://bit.ly/liw66q

I was hoping that the chat might lead to some interesting links, resources and lesson plan/ideas. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

We talked about what Guided Discovery was;

@wellmichelle Guided Discovery: students uncovering the rules and structures to the language themselves, but with teacher support #ELTchat

We then discovered that a lot of people use guided discovery, particularly for teaching grammar;

@hartle #eltchat I often use it with a text and the grammar related guided discovery questions refer learners back to context meaning and form
@Marisa_C RT @Shaunwilden: @Marisa_C Well i used it a lot as part of inductive grammar approach #eltchat > so no rule giving but rule discovery
 @reasons4 RT @esolcourses RT @bealer81: So who uses guided discovery? #eltchat  I use it. supplemented with help > isn’t the help the guided but

Then the next question, which for me was the most important, the one where I would be inundated with links and the chance to actual see how a Guided Discovery lesson worked and have, perhaps, a couple of good examples to go away and practise with.

@ShellTerrell What specific lessons have you done in your classrooms that are examples of guided discovery? #ELTChat

And I waited, and continued to wait, and then we went off on a random tangent about Dogme and GD and the chat was over. I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. This was by no means a fault of the ELTchat format or of the great teachers that took part. The impression I get, and this also includes my findings from searching through various books and scouring the internet, is that there just isn’t that much lesson material or research for Guided Discovery done in ELT.  I have managed to find these articles, which provide a good description of what Guided Discovery is http://bit.ly/HYgp1x and http://bit.ly/JfWR9I Perhaps the best breakdown of guided discovery, with examples, can be found here http://slidesha.re/IuRAHu (Vicky Samuell) But, my point remains. There are very few examples being shared and talked about. Which seems such a shame, as Guided Discovery appears to be a very effective way of demanding more of our students and giving them a sense of achievement, leading to greater learner autonomy.

ELTchat may not have answered my question or provided me with the plethora of examples I was hoping for, but it certainly highlighted the need for some further hands on research and investigation. Now, I may be looking in the wrong places or typing the wrong words into my search engine. So please tell me if you know of any great resources. I know that there must be research papers out there, but for teachers what we really need is examples and people writing or talking about their experiences with it. So if you do use Guided Discovery and have some ideas get them out there, blog them or put it out on twitter. If you don’t I may have to do another action research project. Oh wait, that sounds like a good idea!

Here is the complete transcript for the ELTchat – http://bit.ly/HLKaBp


9 thoughts on “ELTchat summary – Guided Discovery

  1. Hi Adam,

    I am surprised that the eltchat didn’t reveal more practical ideas. Shame. Guided discovery is not easy to create, but it is so useful. When I am at home and with my computer I will post the way I teach trainees to create guided discovery worksheets. Also have you looked at coursebooks (yes, I said it..:) that do GD? Cutting Edge use it.

    Will post later on. Watch this space.

  2. Perhaps, ELTchat wasn’t the best forum to pose the question. Still it raised some issues and questions for me to try and answer so it was good in that respect.
    Would love to see your notes on that Jemma, any material is helpful. I have been looking at a lot of course books recently and it is clear that they are using an inductive approach, albeit a very low level and very heavily guided way. It would be interesting to strip some of it back and make it that little bit more difficult and rewarding for the students.
    Thanks for the comment, hope all is well with you.


  3. Adam,

    Found this: http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED358034.pdf Thought it might help you. I haven’t come across Guided Discovery in my teacher training so it was interesting to read up on the topic. If you scroll to the bottom you’ll find Ian’s project. I have taught the water cycle 8 times over in English and so his was the most relevant to my own teaching. Ian’s comes complete with a lesson plan designed by him for this specific purpose (think you were looking for examples?). I was particularly intrigued by his conclusion that GD might be better suited for high-level students and that low-level students might benefit more from expository teaching. Another angle to consider for your action research project? This article is from the ’90s and references articles from the ’80s so more investigation in this arena seems appropriate. Hope you find it useful, Christen

    • Hi Christen,

      Thanks so much for this. It all looks interesting and I am looking forward to taking the time out to actually sit down and give it the time it needs to process it all. I’m glad the post highlighted another new approach for you and good luck if you plan on using the approach. It would be nice to hear how it goes.
      Thanks for commenting and visiting the blog.


  4. Hi Neil,

    Really appreciate this. Just what I have been looking forward. Will have a good read of this and try to use it in the coming weeks and get back to you.
    Thanks for commenting.


  5. Happy to have found this link!!!

    I also have my doubts about GD. I recall when I did my CELTA a while back and had to use GD in one of my lessons it went horribly; I got my only “Not to Standard” lesson as a result and since then I shelved it. I’ve decided to give it another go but after reviewing some notes I realized why I failed that lesson:

    When do we clarify form?

    I’m under the impression that explicit form clarification should always take place at some point during a grammar lesson; when do you do that during GD?

    Let’s say am teaching the past simple regular. I’d model the target language during the lead-in, give the students a text, follow it up with a gist task, even get fancy and throw in a scanning task, and lastly do the detailed task by having them look for all past simple verbs (assuming by now they’re modelling/ have picked up the target language during my lead-in). But at what point should I write on the board “Past simple regular= verb + ed; e.g. Play > played”?

    Personally, I feel there’s a breakthrough point where students “get it”, i.e. the rule, but I feel that never happens in a GD.

    Any thoughts?

    • Hi,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on the blog.
      My main concern is why you feel as though you should be writing up the form on the board. If the students are doing the work and the lesson is well planned they should discover the rules themselves and you should elicit the form from them or get them to write the form themselves. If you feel the need to write the form on the board then the need for all the guiding goes out of the window. Trust in your lesson plan and trust in your students. They will find the rules and they will write the form for you. Your clarification can come in the form of a big smile and a well done.
      I hope this helps and good luck with your future lessons.

      • Hi H Smadi,
        I completely agree with what Adam says – your GD should allow room for the students to come up with the form for themselves. I’d also be very careful about ‘modelling the target language during the lead-in’ – there’s no reason to do this. We don’t lead in to language, we lead-in to themes, topics – in the case of text-based guided discovery, just lead in to the topic of the text and get the students engaged in the text. Don’t worry about the language at all at this stage – wait for the students to discover it using your handout once they’ve read and understood the text.
        Hope this helps make youre next guided discovery a success!

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