Inventive learning is a type of instruction that asks students to invent original solutions to novel problems. It can be considered a form of guided discovery in which learners first explore a phenomenon (e.g. density) and then must produce a general explanation or solution that accounts for the variation in what they “see.” Inventive learning has the goal of supporting the development of early knowledge and are frequently paired with contrasting cases to help learners notice important features of a phenomenon (e.g. density is a function of an object’s mass and volume) and formulate new interpretations of the underlying structure that organizes these features (D=m/v).
Invention activities are frequently used as “starter units” in a curriculum. Although students frequently do not produces optimal solutions during the activities, their exploration, in service of finding a general solution, nonetheless better prepares them to learn when expert solutions are eventually provided during later instruction, such as a lecture, video, or text passage.