A six stage methodology for learning. Part 4 – Exploration

I’ve been exploring my methodology for learning in more detail across a series of articles. We started with Context and then Demonstration: today, we’re looking at the third stage, Exploration.

Methodology - exploration

Exploration is where we play with the learning, where we make our mistakes and learn

Exploration is where we play with the learning, and it’s one of the areas where we see the greatest variation in individual behaviours. Playing is important: it lets us explore boundaries, it’s where we push buttons and pull levers, as well as being where we make our first mistakes.

It’s about testing the boundaries between ‘what i know’ and ‘what i don’t know’, it’s where we push and expand these spaces. When it comes to knowledge, this is where we start to manipulate concepts, this is where we start to size up how the new learning impacts on our current worldview.

In terms of learning design, in workshops, this is where we are roleplaying, trying out different roles (which is a socially permissible way of experimenting with different styles in a permissive environment), whilst in e-learning we may be using simulations to play.

It’s important to remember that ‘exploration‘ is one of the most valuable parts of the learning methodology, it’s an important stop on our learning journey, but it’s often subverted by the desire to assess. When we should be letting people play, instead we want them to do things ‘right‘, but play isn’t about getting things right. It’s about testing boundaries, experimenting with feedback and moderating or modifying behaviours and actions as a result.

In terms of learning design, we have to create bubbles for play, separated by more formal gateways for knowledge checks and assessments. Within the bubbles, we can make mistakes, we can try things out, we can learn. We provide contextual feedback and keep the errors safe, but we let people make them. If you create a simulation environment, a space for play, where you can’t fail, then you can’t learn.


1. How does this fit with what i know already?
2. Where do i plug this in?
3. What does it feel like?

Yes: it’s about playing and making mistakes
No: it’s not about assessment

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Context, Demonstration, Design, Education, Effectiveness, Instructional Design, Learning, Learning Design, Learning Methodology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to A six stage methodology for learning. Part 4 – Exploration

  1. Pingback: A six stage methodology for learning. Part 4 - ...

  2. juandon says:

    Reblogueó esto en juandon. Innovación y conocimientoy comentado:
    Vale la pena estudiarlo con profundidad…juandon

  3. amyparent says:

    Enjoying this very much 🙂 Very well organized and articulated. Thank you.

  4. Pingback: A methodology for learning. Part 5 – Reflection | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  5. tanyalau says:

    Good point about allowing genuine opportunities for play and experiment – opportunities which aren’t about getting the ‘right’ answer, just exploring outcomes of different actions. Often, particularly in elearning (when we’re trying to make the experience as short as possible) we skip demonstration and go straight to simulation which is also designed to integrate assessment. I guess your methodology points out this may not always be the most helpful for learners.

    • julianstodd says:

      Absolutely: the point of a learning experience doesn’t have to be passing an assessment. It may be about challenging your assumptions, about sowing the seeds of change.

  6. Pingback: A methodology for learning. Part 6 – Assessment | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  7. benoitdavid says:

    I’m a firm believer in exploration (simply because that’s my main learning approach…). In the corporate world though, it’s sometimes difficult to propose, as it may be viewed as too “risky”. Too risky because (1) the learner may miss the point (which you can check with assessment) or, (2) they may be “exposed” to the wrong thing and retain it! I mention that because we actually have a client that is like that, or I should say the SMEs believe that you can only show the right stuff: ask a question and give the correct answer right away. This is technical, regulatory training, for which we tried to go the branching scenario way… to understand consequences and develop forward thinking (their own words!). Didn’t fly.

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