“The Discovery Program develops a mutually respectful environment where teens are held accountable for their actions in a supportive yet realistic manner." - Shannon, S.M. (2013).

The Discovery Program  research


The Discovery Program has been the focus of two rigorous, peer-reviewed studies designed to measure the curriculum’s effectiveness with at-risk and minority students.   Informally, several educators and administrators have provided positive testimonial feedback of Discovery’s success in their school.  The Discovery Program evaluates student outcomes in schools every six to nine weeks; and The Discovery Institute™ actively seeks additional ways to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Program.

University of Oregon

Kenneth Merrell, Ph.D., and Karalyn Tom, Ph.D. (University of Oregon) evaluated the effectiveness of the Discovery Program on alternative high school students deemed to be at-risk.   Evaluations were based on strengths-based self-report measurements of students’ assets and resilience.

Results garnered from pre and post test measures indicate “students who completed Discovery perceived statistically significant and meaningful personal improvement” in the following four areas:

  • Improvements in Social Competence
  • Increased Self-Regulation Skills
  • Increased Empathy
  • Improvements in Social Responsibility

Dr. Merrell and Dr. Tom concluded that “such a strong difference is seldom found in [social-emotional learning] or social skills intervention programs.” (2009, p. 4-5).

For a full report see: Merrell, K. W., & Tom, K. M. (2009). Effectiveness of a social-emotional learning program at increasing self-reported assets and resilience of students in an alternative high school program. Oregon: University of Oregon

University of Northern Colorado

Amy Molina, Ph.D., (University of Northern Colorado) evaluated the effectiveness of the Discovery Program at strengthening positive psychological constructs (i.e., wellness, emotional intelligence, school satisfaction, and hope) among Latino and non-Latino youth. Molina also assessed Discovery’s influence in improving school engagement, as measured by increased attendance and academic achievement.  Positive psychological constructs and engagement were assessed prior to and following program completion, as well as six and 12 weeks following Discovery graduation.  Evaluations were based upon a positive psychology perspective and a mixed methods research design.

Outcome measures indicate a significant increase in students’ social and emotional well being, across ethic groups, in all four of the following areas:

  • Wellness
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • School Satisfaction
  • Hope

Further, this study found that participation in the Discovery Program significantly improved school attendance and academic achievement, across ethnic groups, in both schools.

Qualitative data collected during interviews with Discovery students support quantitative results.  The following statements are only two of the several included in Dr. Molina’s study:

Disco has helped me immensely in resolving conflicts at home and at school. I do not hide from the storm anymore, but brave through it

“I am more happy and content than I used to be. I used to be really angry, but now I speak my voice so everyone can hear it.”

For a full report see: Molina, A. (2009). A mixed-methods evaluation of The Discovery Program with Latino and non-Latino youth. Colorado: University of Northern Colorado.

Published Literature

Scott M. Shannon, MD, ABIHM is a prominent Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and founder of the Wholeness Center, the Nation’s largest integrated mental health clinic located in Fort Collins, Colorado.  In Dr. Shannon’s 2013 book, Mental Health for the Whole Child: Moving Young Clients from Disease and Disorder to Balance and Wellness, he promotes social-emotional education as a sensible option for students struggling in traditional settings.

Dr. Shannon writes the following,

“The Discovery Program develops a mutually respectful environment where teens are held accountable for their actions in a supportive yet realistic manner. They learn about their behavioral triggers and how to control them, but also about relationships and how to navigate them successfully. By the end, they’re able to move beyond their oppositional past and develop healthy habits and relationships” (2013, p. 201) – Shannon, S.M. (2013). Mental health for the whole child: Moving young clients from disease and disorder to balance and wellness. New York, NY: Norton.