The Learning Loop and Peer Learning Groups

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(Last Updated On: April 4, 2021)

In a recent webinar titled Learning How to Learn, Kelly Palmer stated that it is necessary to go through the learning loop to build skills. She described the learning loop as having four steps:

  1. Knowledge: the learner studies a skill through videos, online courses, articles, TED Talks, or access to peers who have expertise in a subject.
  2. Practice: the learner practices the skill.
  3. Feedback: the learner demonstrates the skill and gets feedback from a trusted expert.
  4. Reflection: the learner considers the feedback and identifies the aspects of the skill that still need to be mastered.

This four-step learning loop is repeated as the learner works to build proficiency in all aspects of the skill. The learner continues through the learning loop until the skill has been mastered.

The Learning Loop and the Peer Learning Group Model

As soon as I heard about the learning loop, I immediately thought about the three main stages of the Peer Learning Group Model created by The Peer Learning Institute. The focus of these stages is to build a specific management skill that was previously identified as a challenge by the participants in a peer learning group. The Peer Learning Group Model incorporates each step in the learning loop.

Let me compare each learning loop step to these stages.

Knowledge. In the first stage of the Peer Learning Group Model, five managers who share a current management challenge come together in a peer learning group. They bring their knowledge and experience into the group. During a 90-minute session, they discuss how they are currently handling the challenge, following a provided agenda and informational materials. New knowledge in those materials offers new skills to manage the challenge in a more effective fashion. Each manager commits to using one of those new skills when back on the job.

Practice. In the second stage of the Peer Learning Group Model, the managers exercise their new skills as they deal with their challenge. This stage lasts for one month, so that the managers have sufficient time to repeatedly practice, learn from their experiences and refine their skills.

Feedback. During the month of practice in the second stage, the managers receive immediate feedback from their application of their new skills. Either they are effective in handling the management challenge or they are not effective and need to revise how they apply their new skills. The managers also receive and provide feedback in weekly contacts with a peer buddy drawn from the peer learning group.

Reflection. During the month of practice, the managers keep a weekly log of what they did to address the management challenge, what happened as a result, and their reflection on what they learned from the experience. In the third stage of the Peer Learning Group Model, the managers report their practice experience and what they learned. They reflect on what to keep in mind when using the new skill, generalize the lessons learned from the practice of the other group members, and report on how they will adjust their approach to managing the challenge in the future.

The process is continually repeated as the managers keep focusing on the next current management challenge.

The three stages of the Peer Learning Group Model embody the four-step learning loop.

For more information about the Peer Learning Group Model, contact Deborah Laurel

How can your organization use the four-step learning loop to develop a learning culture?

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