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Instructionism refers to all of the educational theories based on the idea of the teacher teaching, usually according to a predetermined schedule, rather than on students learning from their own experiences at their own pace. This includes any form of rote learning, and most forms of book learning in actual use, as well as drill and practice.

The scientific laboratory is a place for exploration and discovery, where the principal topic of investigation is human ignorance in whatever form it currently takes, using the sharpest tools and brightest lights that human ingenuity can bring to bear. The school laboratory is almost always a place for regimented repetition of "experiments" whose outcome is known in advance. Similarly, a research library is a different sort of place to explore human ignorance about other kinds of questions. Here we look for interpretations of what has previously been recorded, often by comparing differing source accounts, often by finding questions that we can attempt to answer by other means. The school library is more often a place for looking up the "right" answer. A textbook can be an account of the frontiers of knowledge and understanding, presenting conflicting theories and attempts to find evidence to distinguish among them, or it can be a compendium of socially approved "facts".

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