Benefits of group learning
<![CDATA[With the rise of social media and the constant stream of new ideas, society’s perspective on individual vs. social learning has evolved significantly. Not too long ago it was thought that one-on-one coaching during job performance, otherwise known as on-the-job training, was the most effective form of learning. However, recent findings from neuroscience research, coupled with our own experiences with “Learning Groups” have led us to believe that group learning is far more effective than one-on-one coaching. But before we dig into this topic further, we need to make some distinctions about “social media” and “social learning.” A lot has been said that implies that people can “learn” quite a bit from through social media. However, social media in general is better characterized as an exchange of information, some useful, some not so much. It may cause some learning, but it is an accidental exchange, not necessarily intended toward learning. The reason people believe that learning comes from participation in social exchanges is based on the idea that multiple people exchanging information produces a better result than an individual working in isolation. However, for most of social media the quality of learning is conditional on the quality of the participants and the information they exchange. We were working with one organization in particular that made all their education programs operate like online bulletin boards, only slightly more interactive. It became apparent that the primary participants in the program were the least experienced and least knowledgeable. Ironically, the people who knew the most about the topic didn’t participate in the program because the discourse bored them. The forums were essentially the ineffective sharing of information with the ignorant. In contrast, when we consider “social learning,” we are referring to a group that comes together for the sole purpose of exploring, in depth, designated practical topics – usually derived from a star performer’s best practices. David Rock’s work on neuroscience shows that people in these types of group learning settings experience a release of serotonin that promotes openness to new ideas and an ability to learn faster. In our experience, focused group learning, especially when facilitated, can drive deep reflection. When someone in the group shares an experience or an idea, he or she must mentally process less-defined concepts into more complete forms. This process is intellectually demanding and, therefore, can cause deeper, more complete connections to form. When other members of the group comment on the ideas or share their own thoughts, new concepts will emerge, further illuminating key ideas and causing more internal reflection. This is truly social learning. People will learn even more if they write down their thoughts and ideas and then share what they have written with the group. This will result in more internal processing. Group members will be able to bring a different perspective to a topic that an individual may not have considered. Social or group learning as we described it can create deep, sustained performance improvements with less time and effort than any other form of learning. And, people like the experience so much and it is so valuable, that they tend to form life-long friendships with others in the learning group. We all know the adage “two heads are better than one.” Well, in terms of learning that is very true. Everyone is different and everyone has their own unique perspectives and ideas to offer. You might be surprised at what you can learn when two or more people in your organization share their knowledge and experiences.]]>
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