Jerome Bruner

Born October 1st, 1915

Jerome Bruner was Born October 1, 1915, in New York City. Bruner's theory has become one of the most well known theory regarding education that is still a main focus within the system today. Bruner attended Duke University as well as Harvard University where he began to conduct research on the human condition, and development. Over the past 40 years, he has written a number of books:The Process of Education ( 1960), Acts of Meaning (1991), and The Culture of Education (1996). In 1963,
he received the Distinguished Scientific Award from the American Psychological Association, and in 1965 he served as its president.

"It is surely the case that schooling is only one small part of how a culture inducts the young into its canonical ways. Indeed, schooling may even be at odds with a culture's other ways of inducting the young into the requirements of communal living.... What has become increasingly clear... is that education is not just about conventional school matters like curriculum or standards or testing. What we resolve to do in school only makes sense when considered in the broader context of what the society intends to accomplish through its educational investment in the young. How one conceives of education, we have finally come to recognize, is a function of how one conceives of culture and its aims, professed and otherwise." (Jerome S. Bruner 1996: ix-x)(source:

Check out this Youtube video on Jerome Bruner.

MACOS Project

Jerome S. Bruner also became involved in the design and implementation of the influential MACOS (Man: A Course of Study) project which was produced for a comprehensive cirriculum drawing upon the behavioural sciences. This project compared people with other forms of animal life and devoted half a school year to intensive scrutiny of a small group of humans who survived. This project was initially designed for middle school and upper elementary grades, stressing a cross-cultural view of human behaviour. Bruner's organizing principle was that "a curriculum should involve the mastery of skills that in turn lead to the mastery of still more powerful ones." The cirriculum aimed to address these three quetsions:

1) What is uniquely human about human beings?
2) How did they get that way?
3) How could they be made more so?

With these ideas in mind a curriculum for all grade levels was prepared. Teachers were encouraged to use it and to search out those "appropriate versions" of knowledge to make Man: A Course of Study applicable to children from early elementary grades to high school. Bruner states that any student can learn any material, provided that it is made suitable to the student's maturity/ability level.

However, this curriculum was difficult to implement because it required a degree of sohpistication and learning on the part of teachers, and the ability and motivation on the part of students. The education system had begun to move away from the more progressive thinkers like Jerome Bruner
. (sources found at [[ |Jerome Bruner]]
Constructivist Theory/Discovery Learning

One of the key foundations in Bruner's theory is that learning is an active process where learners make new ideas and develop new beliefs, based on what they already know and have already learned. The learner makes decissions, bases hypotheses and absorbs information, relying on their cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure being; schema, mental models...etc. A child's cognitive structure helps to give meaning and organization to experiences and also allows the child to go deeper in their understanding of the information which they are learning.
Bruner believes that the teacher/instructor's role in learning, is to encourage the child to develop and discover principles on their own, based on their current knowledge of any topic. The instructor and student should engage in an active dialog (i.e., socratic learning). Instuctors should study the curriculum they are to teach, and then regurgitate the lessons and information to their students in a way that will make sense to the students -- according to their current level of understanding. Bruner talks about children learning in a "spiral manner" where they are contiually building on what they already understand.

Spiral curriculum: (As stated by
'A curriculum as it develops should revisit this basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them' (ibid.: 13).

"Bruner (1966) states that a theory of instruction should address four major aspects:
(1) predisposition towards learning
(2) the ways in which a body of knowledge can be structured so that it can be most readily grasped by the learner
(3) the most effective sequences in which to present material
(4) the nature and pacing of rewards and punishments.
Good methods for structuring knowledge should result in simplifying, generating new propositions, and increasing the manipulation of information."

Bruner's constructivist theory is a basic outline for how to teach and present instruction and new material, based on the study of cognition. A lot of his theory is related to child development research, especially Piaget's work. For a complete overview of the constructivist framework go to
(source: )

Models that are based on discovery learning include:
  • Guided discovery
  • Problem-based learning
  • Simulation-based learning
  • Incidental learning
  • Case-based learning

Some advantages of the discovery learning theory:

  • Encourages active participation and engagement
  • Promotes motivation
  • Promotes responsibilty and independence
  • Develops creativity and problem solving skills

Some cited disadvantages of the discovery learning theory:

  • Creation of cognitive overload
  • Possible development of misconceptions
  • Teachers and instuctors may fail to detect and therefore corrent student's problems and misconceptions
(Source and for more info on this: )

The Process of Education

Jerome Bruner wrote "The Process of Education" influencing the thinking and orientation of a wide group of teachers and scholars. Jerome's view of children was that they were active problem-solvers who are ready to explore possibly difficult subjects. Bruner divides the book into four basic parts: structure, readiness for learning, intuitive thinking, and motives for learning.

This approach should be a practical one. He states that when we grasp the structure of a subject, it enables us to relate many other things that would otherwise seem unrelated. The more fundamental the idea is, the wider and more powerful will be its applicability. Bruner applies this principle to the subject of curriculum enhancement and "how best to proceed in the teaching of different subjects in different graddes." The goal he offers is to tie the knowledge into a structure that both makes it worth knowing and usable in areas beyond the learning situation.
Readiness for learning

Bruner believes that schools have wasted time by postponing the teaching of important areas because children are not ready and subjects are "too difficult".
"We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development." (ibid.: 33) Jerome Bruner

This idea comes from the spiral curriculum which was explained earlier.

Intuitive and analytical thinking
Intuition is a much neglected but essential feature of productive thinking. Here Bruner notes how experts in different fields appear "to leap intuitively into a decision or to a solution to a problem"

Motives for learning
Interest in the material to be learned is the best stimulus to learning, rather than such external goals as grades or later competitive advantage. Motives for learning must be kept from going passive, they must be based as much as possible upon the arousal of interest in what there is be learned, and they must be kept broad and diverse in expression. Teaching a lesson, no matter how well prepared, without real understanding by the teacher, will result in that same low level of understanding being transferred to the students. Only when the creation of a lesson grows out of true understanding of the subject as taught will the process of education be a productive one for the students and the teachers. (source and more information at [[ |Jerome Bruner]])