The question is raised in the context of a major shift in the school curriculum in the context of Alberta in a recent article in the National Post.
Among the concerns raised are two meta-analyses (studies of research studies) have shown that “unassisted discovery [learning] does not benefit learners.”
Unassisted discovery refers to learning that occurs without the intervention of teachers. This also plays a significant role in the informal learning that some people advocate for the workplace.
Unassisted discovery learning contrasts with assisted discovery learning, which includes scaffolding (providing various types of support so that learners can successfully achieve the learning objectives) and feedback, which provides learners with outside insights on their discovery processes. Some assisted discovery learning also establishes a foundation of knowledge before sending students to discover.
Read more about the studies and the situation in Alberta at http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/02/28/does-discovery-learning-prepare-alberta-students-for-the-21st-century-or-will-it-toss-out-a-top-tier-education-system/.