Bruner describes the general learning process in the following manner. First the child finds in his manipulation of the materials regularities that correspond with intuitive regularities it has already come to understand. According to Bruner the child finds some sort of match between what it is doing in the outside world and some models or templates that it has already grasped intellectually. For Bruner it is seldom something outside the learner that is discovered. Instead, the discovery involves an internal reorganisation of previously known ideas in order to establish a better fit between those ideas and regularities of an encounter to which the learner has had to accommodate.
His approach was characterised by three stages which he calls enactive, iconic and symbolic and are solidly based on the developmental psychology of Jean Piaget. The first, the enactive level, is where the child manipulate materials directly. Then he proceed to the iconic level, where he deals with mental images of objects but does not manipulate them directly. At last he moves to the symbolic level, where he is strictly manipulating symbols and no longer mental images or objects. The optimum learning process should according to Bruner go through these stages.
1. Enactive mode(0-3).
The child represents past events through motor responses, i.e. an infant will “shake a rattle” which has just been removed or dropped, as if the movements themselves are expected to produce the accustomed sound. And this is not just limited to children.
Many adults can perform a variety of motor tasks (typing, sewing a shirt, operating a lawn mower) that they would find difficult to describe in iconic (picture) or symbolic (word) form.
2. Iconic Mode(3-7 OR 8).
3. Symbolic mode(7 OR 8-MORE).
Symbols are flexible in that they can be manipulated, ordered, classified etc, so the user isn’t constrained by actions or images. In the symbolic stage, knowledge is stored primarily as words, mathematical symbols, or in other symbol systems.