Peer Learning and the SCARF Model- Part Two

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Triggering Reward Response through Peer Learning

Richard Ladyshewsky, in his article: Peer coaching as a strategy to increase learning and development in organizational life-a perspective, applies the SCARF model to show how peer learning defuses threats and triggers reward responses in employees and organizations.

  • Status is about relative importance to others. The equal status of the peer relationship removes authority from the learning equation and enables more open disclosure about learning. Learners do not fear reprisal or consequences like they may with a supervisor because their status is equal.
  • Certainty concerns being able to predict the future. The trust and confidence that is created over time between peers provides certainty that the learning relationship is secure and confidential. There are no surprises as it is a safe place to learn.
  • Autonomy provides a sense of control over events. The [managers] determine what they want to improve or address in regard to their performance. This gives them autonomy over their work role and practice. This sense of control and self-determination is liberating.
  • Relatedness is a sense of safety with others – of friend rather than foe. The ongoing relationship builds positive emotions between the parties. Laughter, trust, hope, and excitement create positive energy for learning and expand action tendencies for learning.
  • Fairness is a perception of fair exchanges between people. Provided the non-evaluative feedback that is shared between the [managers] is honest and [all] parties are acting with integrity, even difficult conversations about learning and performance do not detract from the relationship because of the strong psychological contract that is in place. The relationship is seen as honest and fair in the communication that is exchanged.

The Peer Learning Group Model and SCARF

The Peer Learning Group Model foundational principles of psychological safety, equality, mutual support and a growth mindset embrace the SCARF domains. They reinforce the importance of a psychologically safe environment for learning in organizations in which managers are equals, provide each other mutual support, learn from failure and embrace new ideas generated by their peers. These peer learning groups offer the comfort of unthreatened dialogue and openness that allows the managers to feel they are supported and safe to be vulnerable.  As neuroscience and the SCARF model show, these qualities are needed to make the workplace more productive and meaningful.

Peer learning can defuse threats when managers and leaders are allowed to feel safe, be equal in status, and have a sense of certainty.  Peer learning may be a vital step to trigger reward responses that will lead to personal performance improvement and organizational changes.

Deborah Laurel

Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute


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