Group Learning (Collaborative Learning, Social Learning, Team Learning)

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.)

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.

Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog
Library's Team Performance Blog


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 onto 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 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 learner somehow, for example, to achieve a goal or solve a problem. A skill is the 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:
Informal Versus. Formal Training, Self-Directed Versus Other-Directed Training
Many Types of Learning
Various Ideas for Learning Activities

Perspectives on Forms of Group Learning

Group work: Using cooperative learning groups effectively
Definition of a Learning Group
44 Benefits of Collaborative Learning
Challenges & Advantages of Collaborative Learning
Small group learning - Wikipedia
Group vs. Collaborative Learning: Knowing the Difference Makes a Difference
Top 4 Reasons Your Workplace Needs Social And Collaborative Learning Technologies
workplace productivity with group learning strategies
The Why's and How's of Social Learning in the Workplace
Why Social Learning Benefits Your Business | OPEN Forum
How Can Social Learning Benefit Your Company?

Some Examples of Different Types of Groups

Action Learning
Committees
Communities of Practice
Conflict Management
Dialoguing
Focus Groups
Group Coaching
Large-Scale Interventions
Open Space Technology
Self-Directed and Self-Managed Work Teams
Virtual Teams

Important Skills to Cultivate Group Learning

Group Dynamics (about nature of groups, stages of group development, etc)
Facilitation
Team Building
Meeting Management
Group Conflict Management
Group-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making

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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.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

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