Learning Groups: Now It’s Eleven Things

Training Zone kindly published my article on learning groups last November.  This described seven things we’ve learnt in the Diplomatic Academy after 18 months of encouraging our global network to use learning groups – to work through a specific curriculum on Foundation Level knowledge and skills – and getting detailed feedback on how it’s gone.

A further four things have emerged from comments.

Very briefly, the original seven were:

  • Make it Good, Basic and Incomplete.  Provide high-quality core materials, but not too intimidating, needing local assembly and with lots of room to adapt.
  • Offer Lots of Guidance.  It makes it much easier for busy or less confident people to organise the learning group sessions.
  • Cherish the Champions.  The volunteers and enthusiasts out there are the “make or break” demographic for successful learning groups.
  • Block the Lurking Lecturers.  Discourage people from using learning groups to fulfil their teacher-fantasies (but do encourage expert contributors – see below).
  • Offer Glamour and Biscuits.  Use all the motivational tools you can afford.
  • Think Hard about Special Arrangements.  Your one size will not fit all.  Look for groups who might be disadvantaged for whatever reason, and try some answers.
  • Be Part of the Solution.  Look at how learning groups can be the answer to the challenges of local leaders.

A further three emerge from comments on the original article:

  • Release the Knowledge in the Room.  Whatever the subject, a decent-sized learning group will usually discover that at least one of its members has an unexpected reservoir of relevant experience.  Use the suggested design of the session to bring this out right up front. (@AdamLeNevez)
  • Maintain a Flow of Communication.  Learning groups need and deserve ongoing support.  Keep up a flow of updates, good practice, news on what other learning groups are doing, templates and suggestions. (@head_learning)
  • Encourage Expert Contributors.  Robin Hoyle (@RHoyle) pointed out that learning groups gain massively from the contributions of highly experienced (and probably very busy) colleagues.  We should do everything we can to encourage them, eg by taking care of any logistics so all they have to do is turn up and talk.

And a final point which is always pushed by my colleague @jamsarni – who has done a lot more work on this than me:

  • Get a Regular Time in the Diary – and stick to it.  People will get used to it, and it saves endless negotiations about diaries and availability.  This point also got some support in a recent #ldinsight discussion on what makes an effective Personal Learning Network.

So I would love to know:

  • do you agree?
  • what else should be on the list?

I’m aware of the work by Jane Hart (@C4LPT) on social and modern workplace learning. She and others such as Harold Jarche (@hjarche) also emphasise Working Out Loud and online social learning models.  Much discussion seems to be about classroom-based learning groups although there are interesting parallels. So a further question:

  • what other resources are out there?

Thank you!


2 thoughts on “Learning Groups: Now It’s Eleven Things

Add yours

  1. Its not enough to offer ‘content’ and suggest ‘talk about it’….offer a few well honed talking points, reflective questions or guided activities … a lot of groups fall down due to weak group process supports and become unfocussed as a result

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