• Introduction
  • The guided discovery style (f)
  • Pros and cons of the guided discovery style (f)
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources
  • Pre-impact set: a set of educational decisions that define the intent of the lesson. Includes planning, preparation, organizing, etc.
  • Impact set: a set of actions made during the lesson and one-on-one feedback. The implementation of the pre-impact decisions in the actual lesson.
  • Post-impact set: the assessment made after the lesson. Evaluating the goal and the outcome.


Mosston’s spectrum of teaching styles (1966) was first designed to be used as a guide for PE teachers to ensure that students learn the required skills, processes, and concepts ingrained in physical education. To Mosston himself, the spectrum of teaching styles was ”a framework of options in the relationships between teacher and learner”.

The spectrum of teaching styles offers eleven distinct teaching methods that vary from teacher-initiated to more student-oriented learning. Each of which has their own characteristics and uses during sports lessons.

This post explains the fundamentals of the guided discovery style, and why it is considered such an effective teaching method in sports and physical education.

The guided discovery style (f)

The guided discovery style is characterized by creating a logical and sequential series of questions that lead the learners to discover a predetermined response. Simply put, the teacher uses questions to guide the learners towards a specific solution.

To make this possible, the teacher must make all subject matter decisions before the lesson (deciding the target concept that needs to be discovered and choosing the questions for the learner). Thus, making sure that learners have a logical path to discover the rule, concept, principle, or relationship that the teacher was looking for. 

The role of the learner is to discover the correct answers set by the teacher. For example, the teacher may ask the students; “where should you be located if you want to score a goal?”. Thus, raising questions and providing options for the learners to try out different techniques for the best possible outcome. To this, the student may say “I should be close to the goal if I want to score”, while the teacher may simply nod to drive the learning situation forward.




Pre-impact set:
(decisions that define the intent – specific planning & preparation of the lesson)


Impact set:
(decisions related to the implementation of the lesson plan & face-to-face interaction)


Post-impact set:
(decisions concerning assessment after the lesson)


The goal of the guided discovery style is to engage the learners in a step-by-step process of discovering a specific goal. If this is successful, and the students find the perfect place to score, the lesson has reached its goal. Furthermore, the students will also feel that they are responsible for creating this new knowledge. In the best case scenario, this provides an “Eureka!” moment for the learner.

In short, the teacher aims to generate interest and excitement while the students actively participate in discovering knowledge.

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The Guided Discovery Style

The teacher designs a sequence of questionsThese questions lead the learner towards a certain goalThe learner answers the questions set by the teacherThe learner reaches the goal with a little help from the teacherEngages the learner in the discovery of concepts & principles with convergent thinking

Pros and cons of the guided discovery style (f)

One of the biggest benefits of the guided discovery style is that students have the opportunity to brainstorm together in how to best perform a specific task. Thus, increasing student participation and encouraging collaboration between learners. Students who participate in this teaching style are also more likely to feel self-reliant and empowered. Most importantly, all of the aforementioned factors have also proven to improve retention of information. 

One thing to keep in mind is that in order to effectively utilise the guided discovery style, the teacher must:

  1. Not tell the answer to the question.
  2. Always wait for the student’s response.
  3. Provide consistent feedback.
  4. Ensure the learning environment is accepting and patient.

Otherwise the students do not actively participate in discovering new knowledge by themselves, but rather learn to ask for answers at every time they are confronted with a problem. The effectiveness of the guided style is also highly determined by the teacher’s ability to design a logical sequence of questions that slowly build up to the predetermined response. 

With this in mind, if the learners are unable to reach the preferred end goal, the questions need to be reassessed. Additionally, if the concept is already known by the learner, they simply revert back to the practice style. After all, if there is nothing left to discover, this nullifies the objectives of guided discovery. 

Final thoughts

The guided discovery style is the first teaching style where the learner engages in discovering new knowledge by themselves. At its core, this style has a particular teacher-learner relationship, where the students must answer correctly to a specific set of questions in their search for a certain outcome. These questions have a cumulative effect that lead the learner to discover a certain idea, concept, or principle. Hence the name, guided discovery. 

Once the learner has answered all questions and reached the goal set by the teacher, the learners are left feeling that they had a bigger responsibility in the learning process. This improves feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. All of which are integral in promoting intrinsic motivation. 

Did you learn anything new about the guided discovery style? Let us know in the comments below.


  • Mosston, M. & Ashworth, S. (2008) Teaching Physical Education. 1st Online Edition.

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