The Complete Discovery Based Learning Process

The most important thing to remember about discovery based learning is that it is very similar to scientific method, and this is because it relies on a lot of inductive reasoning. Unlike conventional teaching methods, this training strategy relies on heavily on what direct observation, experimentation as well as the natural initiatives of the trainees. This makes discovery-based learning a very good option for companies that want to promote flexibility and individual initiative over streamlined efficiency and centralized control.

So before you decide to integrate this teaching methodology into your own organization’s training programs, make sure that it is compatible with your organization’s training objectives otherwise, it may cause some problems further down the line. However, if you’re already sure about your company’s training goals then you may be pleased to know that implementing a discovery-based learning process is relatively easy to do.

Step One – Identify Which Type of Discovery Based Learning Method You Want Your Organization to Use

There are many kinds of discovery based learning. Several good examples include:

  •  Experimentation
  •  Exploration
  •  Simulation
  •  Problem Based Learning

Although these methods all share certain characteristics, it’s also important to pay attention to their differences. For example, simulation is more focused on giving trainees pre-determined simulations designed to improve their meta-cognitive learning abilities. On the other hand, experiments are designed with very clear and very strict learning procedures, most of which are designed to help students reach accurate results rather than ease of learning.

Each of these methods ultimately lead to different training results. So before you choose a particular discovery-based learning program for your organization, be sure to familiarize yourself with your options first.

Step Two – Framing and Identifying Background Goals

Although discovery-based learning has many different goals, it’s also important that this particular learning strategy focuses on meta-cognitive abilities. This focus of meta-cognitive learning is one of the defining features of discovery-based learning, because it defines how trainees are supposed to learn their lessons. What this means is that the learning process is conducted in a certain way and with certain goals in mind.

A good example of this are the questions that the trainees ask when approaching a particular problem. For example, do they frame their questions based on quantity or quality? Do they ask questions which are biased in favor of their group, or do they ask more objective or impartial questions? Conditioning your organization’s trainees to ask the right questions is part of the meta-cognitive learning process, and they are an important part in creating your discovery-based learning program’s background goals.

Step Three – Teaching Learners How to Observe and Gather Data

After the background goals have been established, the next step should be to teach trainees and learners how to identify variables, collect raw information and interpret data. This process is an important part of discovery-based learning because it teaches trainees how to be good observers and researchers. Furthermore, teaching trainees how to accurately measure variables and research data is an essential part in research and development, and this knowledge will allow them to better understand how information is collected, interpreted and then processed for company use.

For example, in teaching company personnel how to be good observers, they can be given access to certain tools and documents. These tools can be in the form of special files, databases or information networks. Once they have access, the trainees will then be asked to gather and interpret data from these sources using data-mining or research procedures, as prescribed by the training program. In this way, students and trainees will gain the necessary knowledge on how to properly acquire critical information for research and analysis.

Step Four – Hypothesis and Analysis

Depending on your learning program’s goals, this process can either involve interpreting and archiving data, rejecting or accepting hypotheses, recognizing problems, developing solution strategies, or all of the above. This part of the process also involves a lot of brainstorming, data interpretation as well as constructive debates.

Hypothesizing and analysis may also be thought of as framing the issue of the topic that’s being learned. For example, if the discussion is centered around competitive theory then trainees may be asked to formulate their hypothesis on how certain rivals may react to new company policies or price policies. Such hypotheses don’t necessarily need to be accurate, but they do have to be grounded in meta-cognitive development.

Step 5 – Executing Solution Strategies

The fifth part of the discovery-based learning process is problem solving, and as you might guess, it involves translating the theoretical and strategic outputs of the previous steps into practical actions that have real impact on the company’s interests. These actions can either be in the form of actual products, research reports, strategies, solutions to problems or even new skills that would help the trainees become better assets to their organization.

However, although the products of discovery-based learning are certainly valuable, the real value behind these strategies is their meta-cognitive mastery. By formulating and executing solution strategies, trainees are able to practically apply what they’ve learned using discovery-based learning. This ability basically gives them the ability they need to handle unknown or unforeseen circumstances, adapt to their challenges and then create solutions which are in line with the company’s needs. In short, by executing solution strategies, trainees become more independent and flexible.


Discovery-based learning has many attributes that set it apart from other learning methods. First of all, it emphasizes a hands-on approach and problem-solving activities instead of direct knowledge transfer. Next, it focuses on the process instead of the final product, which not only encourages practical mastery, but also helps trainees understand how certain processes work.

Thirdly, discovery-based learning encourages trainees to experiment with different techniques and strategies, which essentially makes them more flexible when dealing with certain problems. And finally, discover-based learning encourages curiosity as well as individual initiative, which essentially makes them a great option for organizations that emphasize innovation over fast results. So if your company also shares these values then discovery based learning programs can be of tremendous benefit to you and your employees.

Jason Silver
Jason is the Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog. Jason established the Training Station blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to training, learning and development.
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