April 15, 2021

Peer Learning Groups and the Adult Learner

Learning how adults learn is more than just an academic obsession with researchers and university professors. Rather, it is an important event in today’s environment, when learning is needed by organizations to remain competitive and progressive.

Sir Malcolm Knowles, the ‘father’ of adult education, offered four principles:

Adults are more interested in learning about topics that are directly relevant to and affect their work or personal lives.
Adults should be involved in planning and evaluating their learning.
Experience (including errors) forms the basis of learning activities.
In adult education, attention is focused more on the problem than on content.
To be effective, any learning and learning initiative must contain these principles. The mutual learning groups developed by the Mutual Learning Institute for Management Development are based on these four principles and adhere to them.
Principle 1: Effective learning has a direct meaning and impact. Adults want to learn how to deal with the direct problems they face in their work. Leaders who come together create their mutual learning team based on their chosen thematic module, which provides knowledge and skills just in time to help them better cope with current problems in the workplace.

Principle 2: Effective self-management training. Adults love to take responsibility for their learning decisions. Mutual learning groups are autonomous. Managers determine their learning needs after they have encountered a problem in the workplace. They are engaged in a structured discussion of the issue. They choose the knowledge and skills they want to gain and use.

Principle 3. Effective learning is based on experience. Adults have a lot of knowledge from their own experience. They need to share their knowledge so that they can use that knowledge. In the right environment, adults can also learn from each other. The first group lesson on mutual learning begins with participants being asked to identify, analyze, and discuss where they have mishandled or mishandled a problem in the workplace. This forms the basis for further discussion of the root causes of the problem and alternative strategies to address it.

After the experience between classes, one and two managers reflect on their experiences and plan how they will change their approach in the future to solve a specific problem.

Principle 4. Effective learning is problem-oriented. Adults prefer to focus on a particular topic or skill. The Mutual Learning Group, as described above, focuses on actively solving problems by identifying and analysing alternative strategies in the first session; Experiment with another strategy for solving the problem between classes one and two; and the decision to reflect and modify the behavior that takes place in the second session.

The Mutual Learning Group, based on these principles of adult education, is an excellent laboratory for problem-solving and testing new ways to address critical problems in the workplace.

So if you want your managers to learn effectively and grow professionally, it makes sense to create mutual learning groups that embody the four principles of adult learning, as Sir Malcolm Knowles defends.

Deborah Laurel is a co-founder and director of training at the Institute of Mutual Learning, which promotes the use of self-sustaining mutual learning groups to manage and develop leadership skills. Our program eliminates the disadvantages associated with traditional classroom learning and online learning. To do this, it is primarily focused on 70% of the training that comes from the performance of the work.

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