The Heuristic Strategy

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A (Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D.

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V. (P.G) College, Roorkee, India

The word ‘Heuristic’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘Heurisco’ which means ‘I find’ or ‘I discover’ . This method implies that the attitude of students shall be that of the discoveries and not of passive recipients of knowledge

As an adjective, heuristic (pronounced hyu-RIS-tik and from the Greek “heuriskein” meaning “to discover”) pertains to the process of gaining knowledge or some desired result by intelligent guesswork rather than by following some pre-established formula.

Heuristic method of teaching science was proposed by H. E. Armstrong (1888-1928) . In words of Professor Armstrong, “Heuristic methods of teaching are methods which involve our 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”.  According to him, the real spirit of heuristic method is placing the student in the position of original investigator which means involving his ‘finding out instead of being merely told about things’.

Armstrong originally introduced this method for learning of science. Through this method the pupils are made to learn . This method of teaching is of a very recent origin. First it was used in Science and its success led it to be adopted in the teaching of all subjects in the School Curriculum.

In Heuristic method  the student be put in the place of an independent discoverer. Thus no help or guidance is provided by the teacher in this method. In this method the teacher sets a problem for the students and then stands aside while they discover the answer.

The aim of this method is to develop the scientific attitude and spirit in pupils. The spirit of enquiry prompts the pupils to learn. This method insists on truth, whose foundation is based on reason and personal experiences. As a matter of fact there is no spoon-feeding or more acceptances of facts which are given by the teacher.

The object of the heuristic method is “to make pupils more exact, more truthful, observant and thoughtful to lay this solid foundation for future self-education and to encourage this growth of spirit of enquiry and research.”

In this method, the teacher creates such an environment that a problem arises before the pupil. All the pupils think about the problem, observe and in the end they conclude some result. In this way, all the pupils find out truth by their own way.

The application of heuristic knowledge

The application of heuristic knowledge to a problem is sometimes known as heuristics. The term seems to have two usages:

1) Describing an approach to learning by trying without necessarily having an organized hypothesis or way of proving that the results proved or disproved the hypothesis. That is, “trial-by-error” learning.

2) Pertaining to the use of the general knowledge gained by experience, sometimes expressed as “using a rule of-thumb.”

Objectives of Heuristic Strategy

The following are the main objectives of Heuristic strategy:

To develop among students the ability of self-learning.

To develop among students the ability of critical thinking.

To develop among students the attitude of logical thinking.

To develop among students the attitude of accepting truth only after verification.

To develop among students the attitude of not accepting things based on blind faith.

To develop among students the scientific thinking.

Principles underlying Heuristic method

1. The principle of activity

2. The principle of logical thinking

3. The principle of proceeding from the known to the unknown.

4. The principle of purposeful experience

5. The principle of self thinking and self study

Procedural steps in Heuristic Strategy

Under this method, it is believed that every  lesson should be presented in the form of an enquiry in front of students. The main feature of scientific work is that it springs from a desire to know from our own knowledge some definite thing concerning which curiosity has come to an end.

Here is a sequence of logical steps for planning and conducting research

Introduction and Theoretical Rationale

In an introduction, the teacher, create  interest in the topic, lay the broad foundation for the problem that leads to the study, The objective is to test or verify theory.  The theory becomes a framework for the entire study.

Selection of the Topic.

This step is self-explanatory and usually not a problem. The step simply involves identifying a general area that is of personal interest and then narrowing the focus to a problem

Statement of the Topic

A good problem statement begins by introducing the broad area in which  present learning is centred and then gradually leads  to the more narrow questions  .

A problem statement should be presented within a context, and that context should be provided and briefly explained, including a discussion of the conceptual or theoretical framework in which it is embedded.

The problem should be stated in such a way that it would lead to analytical thinking on the part of the student with the aim of possibly concluding solutions to the stated problem.

The Title

The topic to be studied title should demarcate the following:

  • the WHO or/and WHAT is learned;
  • the WHERE;
  • the WHEN;
  • the HOW; and
  • an indication of the ENVISAGED SOLUTION

Definitions of  Terminology/Concepts and terms used

The success of any method depends on unambiguity and clarity on each inherent aspect. The terms used must be related with the study in question. To make the things clear, the teacher  must define the terms in clear terms. Avoid meaningless words.

Exploration of the Purpose of learning the topic

The student should indicate and defend why it is necessary to undertake for learning. The benefits that will result from the subject matter and to whom it will be beneficial should be indicated.

Four general purposes for conducting learning through heuristic method are to explore, describe, predict, or explain the relation between two or more educational variables.

  • Explore – an attempt to generate ideas about educational phenomenon
  • Describe – an attempt to describe the characteristics of educational phenomenon
  • Predict – an attempt to forecast an educational phenomenon
  • Explain – an attempt to show why and how an educational  phenomenon operates

The identification  of purpose of  study will help in determining  the methodical design  should follow.   Three methodical designs are mixed, qualitative, and quantitative

  • Identify the specific method of inquiry to be used.
  • Identify the unit of analysis in the study.

Formulating Hypotheses

A hypothesis is a tentative statement, that implies a proposed answer to a problem, setting accountability and responsibility of effective learning procedure as high priority. Hypotheses are thus tentative statements that should either be acknowledged or rejected by means of findings. The hypothesis is a simple statement that defines what you think the outcome of your experiment will be.


The hypothesis is your general statement of how you think the scientific phenomenon in question works.

Your prediction lets you get specific — how will you demonstrate that your hypothesis is true? The experiment that you will design is done to test the prediction.

An important thing to remember during this stage of the scientific method is that once you develop a hypothesis and a prediction, you shouldn’t change it, even if the results of your experiment show that you were wrong.

An incorrect prediction does NOT mean that you “failed.” It just means that the experiment brought some new facts to light that maybe you hadn’t thought about before.

Propose appropriate Procedures

The methods or procedures section is really the heart of the heuristic method . The activities should be described with as much detail as possible, and the continuity between them should be apparent

Indicate the methodological steps you will take to answer every question or to test every hypothesis illustrated in the hypotheses section.

v  Decide on the method, techniques and tools to use

v  Explain the rationale of each vis-à-vis the statement of the problems

v  Describe the tool development process or use of existing one

v  Describe how you will gather data for the topic.

v  Explain the statistical methods to be used with rationale

Determine Methods.

Next consider materials and instrumentation. When the needed resources are not obvious, a good strategy is to construct a listing of data collection instruments, for this the first step should be to conduct a thorough search of existing instruments to determine if any can be used in their original form or adapted to present needs.

Data Collection

Data gathering includes consideration about what variables to investigate, Outline the general plan for collecting the data. Provide a general outline of the time schedule you expect to follow.

When Heuristic method is being used by the teacher, then each student is provided a sheet of instructions and they are required to perform the experimental works which are related to the problem provided to them. By following the instructions provided in the written form, students perform the experiment.

Teacher keeps on guiding the students for conducting the experiment properly from time to time. Whatever students do, they keep note of them in their note books. After making experiment, they also derive conclusion from experiments and suggest the methods by which problem can be sort out.

Testing of Hypothesis.

In this step, the pupils collect facts by experiments in favor of or against the hypothesis. In other words, they test the hypothesis by considering many false facts as the basis.

Drawing Conclusion.

The final step in the scientific method is the conclusion. This is a summary of the experiment’s results, and how those results match up to your hypothesis.

In this step, the pupil accepts only true hypothesis and leaves the false one. This conclusion is known as their discovered knowledge according to which the principles and laws are formulated.

Hence, the heuristic method is a method which can give adequate training for discovery and experimentation or research. This method prefers the discovery and practice than knowing the concepts.

Common Mistakes in Applying the Heuristic Method

As stated earlier, the scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of the student’s bias on the outcome of an experiment. That is, when testing an hypothesis or a theory, the students may have a preference for one outcome or another, and it is important that this preference not bias the results or their interpretation. Sometimes “common sense” and “logic” tempt us into believing that no test is needed.

Another common mistake is to ignore or rule out data which do not support the hypothesis. Ideally, the experimenter is open to the possibility that the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. Sometimes, however, a scientist may have a strong belief that the hypothesis is true (or false), or feels internal or external pressure to get a specific result.

In a field where there is active experimentation and open communication among members of the education community, the biases of individuals or groups may cancel out, because experimental tests are repeated by different students who may have different biases. In addition, different types of experimental setups have different sources of systematic errors.

Role of Teacher

In short, in this method the teacher—

Creates problem before his pupils, presents suitable material in order to solve the problem, and as the need arises, provides necessary guidance so that they may search out new knowledge by solving the problem as a result of making use of books, devices and other resources of his choice.

One of the most important aspects of the problem solving approach to children’s development in critical thinking is the teacher’s attitude.  The acceptance of and the quest for unique solutions for the problem that the class is investigating should be a guiding principle in the teacher’s approach to his programme of science. Teachers must develop sensitiveness to children and to the meanings of their behavior.

Teachers should be ready to accept any suggestion for the solution of problems regardless of how irrelevant it may seem to him, for this is really the true spirit of scientific problem solving.

In this method teacher should avoid the temptation to tell the right answer to save time. The teacher should be convinced that road to scientific thinking takes time.

Children should never be exposed to ridicule for their suggestions of possible answers otherwise they will show a strong tendency to stop suggestions.

For success of this method a teacher should act like a guide and should provide only that much guidance as is rightly needed by the student. He should be sympathetic and courteous and should be capable enough to plan and devise problems for investigation by pupils. He should be capable of good supervision and be able to train the pupils in a way that he himself becomes dispensable.

Merits of Heurism or Heuristic Method

The following are some merits of heuristic method—

1. In this method, pupils realize the problem, think about it, observe it, test it and conclude about it. This creates scientific attitude in pupils. Hence, this method is a scientific method of teaching.

2. This is a psychological method as the student learns by self-practice.The maxim learning by doing is involved. Students learn by doing themselves

3. In heuristic method, in addition to the mental and reasoning powers, development of self-confidence and intellectual inter-dependence etc. also occurs gradually. This prepares them to solve any problem likely to arise in future life.

4. In heuristic method, the entire task is completed in school. This solves the problems of home work automatically.

5. This method motivates pupils for doing more difficult tasks. This also avoids the hindrance of individual differences in learning.

6. In this method, pupils work themselves and consult themselves. This coordinates their physical and mental powers. It develops in the student a habit of diligence.

7. This method does not allow the pupils for cramming of ready-made knowledge. The knowledge is gained by self- activity and hence it is retained for a longer time.

8. Power of observation and reasoning and drawing inference are developed.  It creates clear understanding.

9.  It is a meaningful learning The student learns by doing so there is a little scope of forgetting. It develops self-confidence, self-discipline in the students.  The students acquire command of the subject. He has clear understanding about notions of the subject.

10.  It gives the student a sense of achievement. The methods make them exact and bring them closer to truth. It develops scientific attitudes among students by making them truthful and honest for they learn how to arrive at decisions by actual experimentations.

11.  It inculcates in the student the interest for the subject and also develops willingness in them. It develops the habit of enquiry and investigation among students .It develops habit of self- learning and self- direction.

12. It provides scope for individual attention to be paid by the establishing cordial relations between the teacher and the taught.

Demerits of Heurism or Heuristic Method

The following are the few demerits of heuristic method—

1. Heuristic method is useful only for the pupils of higher classes and not for lower-class pupils. This method cannot be used in nursery and primary classes.  It is not suitable for lower classes as they are not independent thinkers. Discovery of a thing needs hard work, patience, concentration, reasoning and thinking powers and creative abilities.

2. The modern culture and civilization has become so much complicated that every pupil acquire knowledge by doing research himself. The teacher has to provide its knowledge directly.

3 The knowledge of all the subjects of a curriculum cannot be imparted to the pupils for examinations by heuristic method. Hence, this method is not appropriate.

4.  It is a very long and slow process and a hence a prescribed course cannot be covered within a specific period. In searching out the knowledge by this method much time is consumed. It is a long and time consuming method and so it becomes difficult to cover the prescribed syllabus in time Hence, it is impossible to search out the knowledge as a result of pupils’ self-efforts for a period of thirty or forty minutes according to the school time-table.

5. While using this method, the teacher prepares everything before-hand which deprives the pupils of the opportunities of self-thinking. This also deprives them of the training of self-discussion.

6. It is very costly because well equipped laboratories are required for the purpose. This method is successful if well-equipped libraries, laboratories and good textbook written in heuristic lines are available. . For this method, special books, devices and trained teachers are needed.

7.  It pre-supposes a very small class and a gifted teacher and the method is too technical and scientific to be handled by an average teacher. It suits only hard working and original thinking teachers.  The method expects of the teacher a great efficiency and hard, experience and training. Presently enough teachers are not available for implementing learning by heuristic method

8.  In this method too much stress is placed on practical work which may lead a student to form a wrong idea of the nature of science as a whole. They grow up in the belief that science is some thing to be done in the laboratory, forgetting that laboratories were made for science and not science for laboratories.

9. Evaluation of learning through heuristic method can be quite tedious. The gradation of problems is a difficult task which requires sufficient skill and training.

10. Learning by this method, pupils leave school with little or no scientific appreciation of their physical environment. The students are immature and it is difficult for them to draw conclusions. The students have to spend a lot of time to find out minor results. The romance of modern scientific discovery and invention remains out of picture for them and the humanizing influence of the subject has been kept away from them.


This method cannot be successfully applied in primary classes but this method can be given a trial in secondary classes particularly in higher secondary classes.

It may be suggested that at least a heuristic approach prevails for teaching of science in our schools. By heuristic approach we mean that students be not spoon fed or be given a dictation rather they be given opportunities to investigate, to think and work independently along with traditional way of teaching

In the absence of gifted teachers, well equipped laboratories and libraries and other limitations this method has not been given a trial in our schools. Even if these limitations are removed this method may not prove much useful under the existing circumstances and prevailing rules and regulations












This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.