Mastering the Art of Group Learning

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    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

    Note that the reader might best be served to first read the topic Group Dynamics to understand the basic nature of most groups and their typical stages of development. (It’s not clear at this time if online groups have similar nature and stages.)

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Also, see

    What is Group Learning?

    In recent decades, researchers, educators, authors, and leaders have accepted that people in groups can learn a great deal from each other. The learning does not always have to be from an expert who somehow conveys expert knowledge to others.

    The benefits of group learning have spawned a wide variety of approaches, formats, and styles that have, in turn, spawned related phrases like “collaborative learning”, “cooperative learning”, “peer learning” and “social learning”. As typically happens when a movement emerges, there are many different values, perspectives, and opinions, even about which phrases to use, where, and when.

    The groups might be closely organized formal teams in which members share a common purpose, goals, structure, leadership, and methods of making decisions and solving problems. Or, groups might be spontaneous and informal gatherings, such as a gathering at a meeting to discuss a common topic.

    The groups might be as few as two people or as large as 20 members or more — although experts in group theory and dynamics often suggest that a group is smaller than 20; otherwise, it has an additional layer of overhead activities that are different than a small group. Therefore, experienced facilitators often arrange for large groups to be organized into smaller ones, at least until the group learning activities are underway.

    The methods of learning can range from informal to formal. Informal learning might be casual advice shared among members or noticing sudden “aha”s that a member gets during the group’s activities. Formal learning is typically designed and structured to achieve certain outcomes among all members. For example, all of them might attend a course on time management, share their insights from the course, and then carefully document their learnings in a journal.

    But What is Learning? What Are Its Various Forms?

    Despite attending many years of schooling, many of us still do not fully understand what learning really is. Educators refer to learning as new knowledge, skills, and abilities. Knowledge is information that is useful to the learner somehow, for example, to achieve a goal or solve a problem. A skill is an expertise to actually apply that knowledge to get something done. Abilities are the ongoing competencies to apply that knowledge in a highly effective and efficient manner. As we mentioned above, learning can be informally or formally gathered. See:

    Perspectives on Forms of Group Learning

    Some Examples of Different Types of Groups

    Important Skills to Cultivate Group Learning

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Group Learning

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Group Learning. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also, see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “Next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

    For the Category of Facilitation and Teams:

    To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

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