Discovery-Based Learning: Definition, Principles, Techniques

Article by Vera Mirzoyan / Updated at .20 Oct 2023
9 min read
Discovery-Based Learning: Definition, Principles, Techniques

We are sure you tried different methods, tools, and techniques for education providers

Of course, there are various similar methodologies. So, the trainers choose one, considering

  •  the demands of their target market, 
  • the characteristics of their subject matter,
  • the preferences of the potential learners

One of the most common theories in the e-learning field is based on discovery-based learning.


What is Discovery Learning?

Discovery Learning is a method of Inquiry-Based Instruction that was introduced by Jerome Bruner. It is based on the fact that students acquire new knowledge by experiencing things themselves - through discovery. In the case of discovery-based learning, students actively take part in the lesson process rather than just being passive listeners. 

This popular theory motivates students to build on past experiences and knowledge. Due to this method, they make use of their intuition, imagination, & creativity. Students can search for new information to find facts, correlations, and new truths. 

In such an environment, learners actively seek answers and solutions. Meanwhile, the teacher acts as an instructor or a guide. As you can see, this approach is similar to the Silent Way method. 

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Principles of Discovery Learning Model

Every teaching method has principles to follow to achieve the best possible outcome. Here are the most common principles of the discovery-based learning model. These principles will help you promote student collaboration. 

#1 Problem Solving

Discovery learning implies that the instructors encourage the learners to look for solutions themselves. In this process, the students should consider their existing and newly acquired information.  In this way, students become the driving force behind the learning process. 

They take an active role, thus developing skills such as problem-solving and investigating. Such skills are essential for your learners. In our rapidly-evolving world, they need more than just knowledge. 

#2 Learner Management

The following characteristic typical to discovery learning is much easier learner management. 

Participants get the opportunity to work with groupmates or learn at their own pace. Such freedom and flexibility relieve the learners from unnecessary stress and make them feel their own learning.

There are various LMS (Learning Management System) software solutions available. They are used to make the process even more comfortable. Using an LMS, you can manage both administrative and creative tasks from one place. 

#3 Integrating and Connecting

Trainers help their learners to combine prior knowledge with newly acquired one. At the same time, they motivate the learners to connect to the real world. 

It works in the following way:

Familiar scenarios become the basis for new information. So it encourages learners to connect what they already know to the new material they acquire. By seeking such connections, learners can better understand the topic. 

Thus, this approach increases the creative and analytical thinking of the participants.

#4 Information Analysis and Interpretation

Discovery-based learning is not content-oriented but process-oriented. It is based on the assumption that learning is not an absolute set of facts. 

Students learn to analyze and interpret the acquired information. They do not memorize the correct answers. This means students are not given direct access to the material. Students instead find out these correct answers by analyzing pieces of information. 

#5 Failure and Feedback

Not only does learning occur when we find the correct answers, but it also does occur through failure. Failure is a great way to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Discovery learning emphasizes the new things we discover. It doesn't focus on finding the right answer. As a result, it is the trainers’ responsibility to provide feedback. Otherwise, learning will be incomplete.  

Discovery-based learning characteristics

Discovery-based learning, or otherwise discovery learning, stimulates an interactive learning environment due to the characteristics it possesses. Such characteristics make this approach unique and differentiate it from other methods. 

  • Hands-on activities. Discovery-based learning incorporates hands-on learning approaches. So, as an educator, you should be able to design or choose suitable activities. Hand-on activities serve as a means to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. Consequently, they allow a deeper comprehension of the topic. 
  • Questions. Students are encouraged to ask questions and participate in discussions actively. This is like the engine of discovery-based learning. As your students are the ones who take charge of their learning, there may be some points where they need further clarification. And that is made into reality through open questions. 
  • Minimal teacher involvement. We have already mentioned that discovery-based learning is a student-centered approach. This means you will only be a facilitator rather than a leader during the teaching-learning process. With less and less teacher involvement, students begin to explore things independently and turn to you wherever they need guidance and support. 
  • Less memorization. Unlike, for example, the audio-lingual learning method, discovery learning implies almost no memorization techniques. And instead of drills, students acquire new knowledge by observing, making connections, and drawing conclusions. Thus, you are not going to assess students based on their memorization abilities.
  • Focus on problem-solving. In the case of discovery learning, students are working according to deduction principles when trying to figure out a solution. By engaging in activities requiring problem-solving and decision-making, they develop analytical skills, which are important in their professional pursuits. 
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Discovery Learning Model Techniques & Examples

The discovery learning educational sessions should be well-designed, highly experiential, and interactive. 

As an instructor, you should use various formats of educational content. It may include stories, games, visual aids, and similar attention-grabbing techniques. Such techniques will build curiosity and interest in learning. They may guide the learners in new ways of thinking, acting, as well as reflecting.

All the techniques and methodologies utilized in discovery-based learning may differ, but the final goal always stays the same. It is for the learners to reach the result on their own. 

#1 Reflections 

Reflection is an efficient way to gain insights into what students manage to learn.  You can have your students write reflections about a completed task. Another option is holding a group discussion. This way, learners are able to analyze their experience and identify the key points of what they have learned.

#2 Case studies  

Using case studies has become an extremely popular technique recently. For this technique, you can divide the large group into small working groups. Afterward, the learners can analyze the real-life situation and find other possible solutions. The groups may also evaluate how the outcomes of the offered solutions will turn out. 

#3 Experiments 

Experiments are one of the most common techniques you can use for discovery learning.

 Especially if you are working with older students, you can have them carry out their own experiments. It will be an effective way to put their prior knowledge into practice. They will be able to discover the relationship between the cause and the consequence.

#4 Role-Playing 

You are most likely familiar with role-playing techniques. It can be easily applied for discovery-based learning. Role-playing is another way for the students to get closer to real-life situations. For this, you will need to assign roles to the students, like doctor and patient, seller and buyer, and the like. 

All these techniques encourage collaboration, communication, and emotional skills development. 

Learners are more likely to remember new concepts when they:

  • Explore and manipulate situations
  • Struggle with questions
  • Perform experiments

Discovery-based Learning: Advantages and Disadvantages

The theory of discovery learning has a significant impact on the educational system.

 Many Education providers still find this method important for student development.

Advantages of Discovery Learning

  • Offers an active engagement of the student in the learning process. When taking part, you tend to pay more attention.
  • Fosters curiosity
  • Enables the development of lifelong learning skills
  • Tends to personalize the learning experience
  • It is highly motivational thanks to the feature to allow individuals to experiment and discover something for themselves
  • It is based on activities that focus your attention on the key ideas, tools, and techniques that are being examined
  • Provides active involvement that makes the learners construct a response 
  • Enables the students to get early feedback on their knowledge, understanding, skills, and acquired results;
  • Results in so-called “episodic memory”. 
  • It is encouraging and motivating. It increases the individuals’ pleasure of successfully solving problems and recalling information.

Disadvantages of Discovery Learning

  • In many cases, discovery-based learning confuses the students with no kind of initial framework available.
  • Offers limitations in practice. For instance, when educational institutions choose to make it the primary way students learn academic lessons
  • It is too time-consuming for any kind of academic activity. 
  • Requires the teacher to be ready for too many corrections. A lot of things one discovers for themselves turn out to be wrong  
  • It can become a vehicle to reject the idea that there are important skills and information that all participants should learn. 
  • If discovery learning is taken as an overriding education theory, it is appropriate to produce an inadequate education.
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Offer discovery learning opportunities online

Discovery-based learning may be beneficial for you if you focus on the right techniques and tools. These days, the majority of trainers rely on e-learning. 

Why e-learning? Because it provides better opportunities, especially when it comes to learner management. Using an all-in-one teaching platform like Uteach, you can control the teaching-learning process from student registration to selling courses from one place. 

You get the opportunity to build the website you have always wished to have in a matter of minutes due to customizable templates. 

Hosting live or coaching sessions, offering courses, or selling digital products will get you that global reach. And all you need to do is take the wonderful chance Uteach offers to build a scalable online teaching business. 

Start offering discovery learning online and discover the power of being an online educator. 

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  ? Too Long; Didn't Read

Discovery learning is an educational approach where students actively explore concepts. It encourages critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and self-directed learning. Teachers act as facilitators, guiding and supporting students as they make their own discoveries.

The main principles of discovery-based learning include Problem Solving, Learner Management, Integrating & Connecting, and Failure with Feedback. These principles will help you to encourage students and guide them toward desirable results.

There are some discovery learning techniques you can implement for better outcomes. And these techniques are reflections, case studies, experiments, and role-playing. Each of these points is further elaborated on in the articles. So let’s finally see what we have.