The Four Foundational Principles of the Peer Learning Group Model

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The Peer Learning Group Model is based on four foundational principles:

(1) Psychological Safety;

(2) Equality;

(3) Mutual support; and

(4) A Growth mindset.

More detailed descriptions of each principle are provided below.

Psychological Safety

  1. Psychological Safety. According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, who coined the term: “Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

In a peer learning group that is psychologically safe, members feel comfortable: acknowledging mistakes; asking for feedback; maintaining an open mind to opinions different than their own; actively listening; and accepting all ideas equally and without judgment.


  1. Equality. Hierarchy and power change the relationships between people in a group. In every organization, people are ranked, formally and informally, according to status, authority and power. When people in power speak authoritatively and speak first, it reduces others’ willingness to engage in a meaningful discussion. This increases self-censorship, thereby limiting learning opportunities.

In a peer learning group, every group member has an equal opportunity to participate and communicate their ideas. Regardless of their position or status, the members act as equal participants in the learning and sharing process. They welcome ideas with open minds and engage in a positive and constructive interaction without regard to hierarchy and seniority.

Mutual Support

  1. Mutual support. Mutual support is the existence of positive psychological and social interactions with others with whom there is mutual trust and concern. It is the essence of teamwork, because it involves group members assisting one another and providing constructive nonjudgmental feedback.

In a peer learning group, each member feels supported and is open to working with other members to achieve the best possible result by sharing their knowledge, skills and ideas. Successful collaboration requires a cooperative spirit and mutual support and respect.

Growth Mindset

  1. Growth mindset. A growth mindset is a belief that capabilities, knowledge and skills can be learned with practice and effort. Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindsets (who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning.

In a peer learning group, learning is the transformative process of distilling their failures, mistakes, new information and new experiences into actionable lessons. For this to happen, the group members adopt a learner’s mindset, remaining open to new ideas- which is the attitude of a growth mindset.

Each of these foundational principles creates the basis for successful peer learning in your organization, and combined offer the bedrock on which the Peer Learning Group Model© operates.

Deborah Laurel

Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute

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