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From: Darlene R-H., Texas

Q: Having never heard of it before and as press secretary to a corporate VP, I’m fascinated by what you term as Heuristic Education. A lot of what I find on line talks about something much more recent than maybe 2000 years back. Please explain. — Darlene R-H., Texas

The genesis of H-E can be confusing. Most references do include the word, Heuristic, which offers an etymological clue since the word derives from ancient Greece. However, Heuristic pertains to self-discovery as a form of education. Perhaps Hellenistic would be a more preferred since it also relates to Greek history and intellectualism.

That being said, you may have seen items about modern day H-E, generally attributed to Heuristic method of teaching science was proposed by H. E. Armstrong (1888-1928). In words of Professor Armstrong, “Heuristic methods of teaching involve placing students as far as possible in the altitude of the discoverer – methods which involve their finding out, instead of being merely told about things”.

Jean Jacque Roussea 1712-1778 was a French philosopher who advocated something similar to H-E when he wrote: “Leave the child alone. Let him be a natural man rather than a civilized man. Let him have a state of nature rather than artificial surroundings that stunt the proper growth and arrest his natural development”.

To Rousseau education is the development of the child’s natural powers and abilities from within. Thus, he mirrowed the ancient Greek philosophy of self-discovery.

H-E science was proposed by Henry Edward Armstrong (1888-1928) when he insisted in this manner the student must search for answers to his/her own problem via unaided efforts. Students become acquainted with processes, which lead to possibilities, not always probabilities of correct answers. Nevertheless, both can endure, and both can confuse because of incorrect assumptions.

Heuristic Education doesn’t denigrate making mistakes if the student learns from his or her errors and advances toward correct conclusions.

As time passes, you will find more references to H-H in our virtual library.