Discovery-Based Learning: Definition, Principles, and Techniques

Vera Mirzoyan
6 min readJul 1, 2021

Originally published at Discovery-Based Learning

When gaining experience in the e-learning environment, sharing useful knowledge content, you should have tried different methods, tools, and techniques for education providers. Of course, there are various similar methodologies and the trainers choose this or that one, taking into consideration the demands in their target market, the characteristics of their subject matter, as well as the preferences of the potential learners. One of the most common theories in the e-learning field is based on discovery learning.

What is Discovery-Based Learning?

Definition: Discovery-Based Learning is a method of Inquiry-Based Instruction that was introduced by Jerome Bruner. This popular theory motivates the students to build on past experiences and knowledge, make use of their intuition, imagination, and creativity, as well as search for new information to find out facts, correlations, and new truths. Learning does not equally absorb what was said or read but actively seeks answers and solutions.

Principles of Discovery-Based Learning Model

Every teaching method has its characteristics and principles to follow in order to reach the best possible outcome. Here are the most common principles of the discovery learning model. Let’s go on!

Principle #1 Problem Solving

Following the discovery-based learning theory, the instructors guide, encourage and motivate learners to look for solutions by considering their existing and newly acquired information and clarifying the background knowledge. In this way, students are considered to be the driving force behind the learning process, taking an active role and establishing broader applications for skills through activities that encourage risks, problem-solving, and investigating.

Principle #2 Learner Management

Trainers allow the participants (learners) to work either on their own or with other groupmates, and learn at their own pace. Such freedom and flexibility make learning the exact opposite of a static sequencing of training lessons and activities, relieve the learners from unnecessary stress, and make them feel their own learning.

These days there are various LMS (Learning Management System) software solutions that make the process even easier ad more comfortable. This may be considered to be one of the essential benefits of distance learning.

Principle #3 Integrating and Connecting

Educational trainers teach and help the learners to combine prior knowledge with newly acquired material and motivate them to connect to the real world. Familiar scenarios become the basis of new information, encouraging learners to extend what they know and invent something new. This approach increases the creative and analytical thinking of the participants.

Principle #4 Information Analysis and Interpretation

Discovery learning is not content-oriented but process-oriented. It is said that this is based on the assumption that learning is not an absolute set of facts. Students, in fact, learn to analyze and interpret the acquired knowledge and information, rather than memorize the correct answers.

Principle #5 Failure and Feedback

Not only does learning occur when we find the right answers but it also does occur through failure. In spite of focusing on finding the right end result, discovery-based learning emphasizes the new things, we discover during the process. As a result, it is the trainers’ responsibility to provide feedback as learning is incomplete without it.

The Discovery Learning Model Techniques

The discovery-based learning educational sessions should be well-designed, highly experiential, and interactive. As an instructor, you should use various formats of educational content — stories, games, visual aids (for instance, video courses), and similar attention-grabbing and eye-catching techniques that will build curiosity and interest, and 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, and it is for the learners to reach the end result on their own. By exploring and manipulating situations, struggling with questions and controversies, or by performing experiments, learners are more likely to remember concepts and newly acquired knowledge.

Discovery-Based Learning: Advantages and Disadvantages

The theory of discovery-based learning has a significant impact on the educational system in order to have kept itself up over decades. Many Education providers still find this method of learning important for student development and retention of knowledge. In this part of the article, I am going to offer a list of the advantages and disadvantages that have been associated with this teaching theory in the past and in the present.

Advantages of Discovery-Based Learning

  • Discovery-based learning offers an active engagement of the student in the learning process; when taking part, you tend to pay more attention;
  • This theory of learning fosters curiosity;
  • Discovery-based learning enables the development of lifelong learning skills;
  • Discovery learning tends to personalize the learning experience;
  • Discovery-based learning is highly motivational thanks to the feature to allow individuals the opportunity to experiment and discover something for themselves;
  • Following the discovery-based learning theory, trainers build on learners’ background knowledge and understanding;
  • Discovery learning is based on activities that focus your attention on the key ideas, tools, and techniques that are being examined;
  • Discovery-based learning provides active involvement that makes the learners construct a response and this results in the processing of information deeper than mere memorization;
  • The discovery-based learning method enables the students to get early feedback on their knowledge, understanding, skills, and acquired results;
  • Discovery learning results in so-called “episodic memory”. This is a deeper type of memory that enables you to connect the information to events that tend to create stimuli for remembering the information;
  • Discovery learning can be encouraging and motivating. It increases the individuals’ pleasure of successfully solving problems and recalling information.

Disadvantages of Discovery-Based Learning

  • In many cases, discovery-based learning confuses the students with no kind of initial framework available;
  • Discovery-based learning offers limitations in practice, for instance, when educational institutions choose to make it the primary way students learn academic lessons;
  • They say discovery learning theory is inefficient as it is too time-consuming for any kind of academic activities, there is not enough time in a school year for students to dig up everything on their own;
  • Discovery learning requires that the teacher be ready for too many corrections, a lot of things one discovers for themselves turn out to be wrong (the process of trial and error);
  • Discovery learning 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.

Final Notes

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. Some prefer to shift into the digital platforms and tools wholly, others do it partly and rely on a hybrid approach to teaching or blended learning. Of course, much depends on your industry trends, as well as your personal and market preferences. Make research and analyze the niche in detail. Your right decisions will lead to continual success.



Vera Mirzoyan

The Sunflower Girl 🌻I never try to find more readers for my writings, but I try to write the best writing for my readers! ig: sunflo.wer___