Characteristics of Effective Learning Groups
We have all experienced effective and non-effective learning groups.
Why is it that some are effective and others are not?
I would argue that learning experiences that provide more time for critical reflection and dialogue result in more effective learning.
Peruse the Christian bookstores and take note of how many resources are now encouraging at least a ninety-minute time frame for group study.
There’s a reason for that: learning takes time!
It takes time to provide the kind of process-learning that yields meaningful outcomes.
This is why I feel that today’s Christian educator must challenge the notion in congregational life that all learning events should be planned for an hour.
Check your church’s calendar and jot down the number of educational experiences that are limited to one hour and how many provide more time for learning.
One of the items that would be on my list of essential characteristics for learning would be an adequate time frame that supports dialog and critical reflection.
These, however, are just two of many characteristics that are important.
If you had to provide a list of characteristics that are essential for effective group learning, what would you suggest?
Wlodkowski, in Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn suggested the following characteristics as essential for effective learning in small groups.
- A people-centered learning environment, one that is caring, warm, informal, and respectful of each individual
- A high level of trust, where people are open to sharing information, ideas, thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the issues being addressed
- Ease of communication, with people listening to one another and being responsible for dialogue
- A collaborative atmosphere in which cooperation overrides competitiveness as a group value
- Acceptance of personal responsibility, with people holding themselves accountable for their choices and behavior
- Clear and accepted learning goals, where members of the group understand and value the goals of the meetings.
What additional characteristics for an effective learning environment would you add?
* Wlodkowski, R. J. Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan. Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans.