Using the Discovery Learning model for eLearning

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

Many eLearning professionals are familiar with the Discovery Learning model and its application to online learning. If you’re new to the industry, you might like to know more about this learning methodology and how it can help improve your eLearning practices.

As its name suggests, Discovery Learning is all about letting students explore solutions and subject matter – on their own, with less instruction than we usually see with traditional teaching methods. How can this methodology help students to learn more effectively?


With Discovery Learning, students experience self-guided learning, which has the benefits of allowing them to become far more engaged in the learning process while retaining a greater level of knowledge. In this way, learners are given the power to explore topics on their own and develop the confidence to successfully apply new skills to real world situations.

Let’s look more closely at the Discovery Learning model and how you can use it for more effective eLearning with your students.

What is the Discovery Learning model?

The first person to define and introduce the Discovery Learning model was Jerome Bruner, an American psychologist, in 1961. From Bruner’s perspective, learning needed to be primarily about discovery, with instructors working as facilitators to create the necessary training materials and provide structure to the learning environment.

As a method of inquiry-based instruction, Discovery Learning encourages learners “to build on past experiences and knowledge, use their intuition, imagination and creativity, and search for new information to discover facts, correlations and new truths.” Under this model, learners have the opportunity to look at the problem from every angle, allowing them greater scope for reflection and understanding of core concepts and ideas.

While Discovery Learning can use various techniques, the goal will always be the same – and that is, for learners to arrive at a result on their own. In this way, the learning experience can be enriched, as individuals use the resources and knowledge they have to reach a conclusion, instead of being given the answers directly by their teacher or instructor.

The benefits of Discovery Learning for students

In this way, Discovery Learning sees students and learners exploring situations, performing experiments, searching for new information and raising questions. All of these practices are designed to build curiosity and interest in students, helping them to achieve new ways of thinking about problems and solutions.

Most eLearning professionals know the benefits of using short, concise modules to keep students engaged with online content. The Discovery Learning model works well with this approach, favoring the use of small amounts of information delivered over time, allowing learners to discover and retain knowledge in a more successful way.

Following the principles of Discovery Learning

  • Learning should focus on the development of problem-solving skills, with instructors working primarily as guides to motivate learners to seek for solutions.
  • Teachers and instructors should allow participants to work either alone or with others, learning at their own individual pace.
  • Learners are encouraged to learn how to combine prior knowledge with new. There is an emphasis on connecting to the real world, with the core curriculum centering on skill mastery.
  • As discovery learning is process-oriented, rather than content-oriented, students learn to analyze and interpret information, rather than simply memorize the correct answer. This allows learners to organize concepts and expand their knowledge base through self-exploration.
  • Recognize that failure is a part of learning. Discovery learning does not focus on simply finding the ‘right’ answer, but the new things we discover in the process. Instructors have a responsibility to provide feedback, since without it, learning is incomplete.


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