“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
From birth, we begin to learn through interactions. In our early years, we develop knowledge of the world around us as we communicate with people in our homes and communities. As babies, we learn to talk by “babbling” with our caregivers. In time, our learning extends to other contexts such as school and the workplace where we learn through our interactions with our teachers, peers, and coworkers. These interactions play a fundamental role in our cognitive development, we make sense of the information that we encounter through our interactions with others. So, learning is a mostly social process because we depend on others who have more knowledge or skills than we do to help us understand the world.
In the fields of education and psychology, this phenomenon is known as Sociocultural Learning Theory (SLT). According to Lev Vygotsky, a major contributor to the origins of the theory, learning is a process of acquiring knowledge, beliefs, and problem solving strategies through interactions with what he termed “more knowledgeable others”. This explains why training and learning activities that depend on social interaction i.e. collaborative learning, cooperative learning, peer learning, and mentoring are more effective than “sit and get” models.
How does this apply to workplace learning?
In the workplace, we learn in a variety of ways and the Learnie app is designed to maximize opportunities for collaborative learning. Formal learning typically involves training that is developed and delivered by an instructor whose sole purpose is to train employees. However, the most valuable learning comes in the context of our work and the app is the perfect tool for capturing that knowledge. When we face new situations and challenges, our “go to” isn’t usually the materials we received in training, reaching out to a peer is far more efficient and effective. This is where “more knowledgeable others” come into play.
While we are (mostly) capable of doing the work required to do our job, there are times we lack the knowledge and skills needed to complete a task or reach a goal. When this happens, we can draw on resources i.e. our more experienced peers, tools and technology, and other training materials. Working with our peers and colleagues gives us the support we need to get where we need to go. Plus, those interactions offer relevant, authentic learning experiences which are critical to effective learning.
What are some advantages of social learning in the workplace?
Innovation: Collaboration affords us opportunities to learn diverse perspectives and develop new skills. Collaboration improves the way teams work together and solve problems. This leads to increased innovation, more efficient processes, and improved communication. Through listening to and learning from team members, we can support each other in reaching our goals and contribute to the overall success of the organization.
Motivation and Engagement: We benefit from peer support and encouragement in collaborative work environments. When we work with teams, we can see how our roles affect others and understand how our work contributes to the overall success of the organization. What’s more, studies show that when young learners are given expanded opportunities to participate in collaborative learning activities they experience feelings of well-being, contentment, or even excitement (Frontiers in Psychology). People who feel good about the work they do and their relationships with their colleagues are often more motivated to succeed.
Efficiency and Productivity: Leveraging the collective knowledge of our teams makes it easy to create training resources and courses that lead to actual results. When we work collaboratively as a team, each member brings their unique set of knowledge, skills, and perspectives. The collaboration affords us the opportunity to learn as we share our ideas as we work together to achieve a goal. As a result, the process is more efficient, and new solutions are found.
How can social learning contribute to success in the workplace?
The concept of learning as a social activity is deeply ingrained in our development from infancy to adulthood. Our interactions with others, whether in the form of early babbling with caregivers or collaborative problem-solving in the workplace, shape our cognitive growth. SLT underscores the significance of learning through interactions with “more knowledgeable others” and highlights the impact of social interaction on our acquisition of knowledge, beliefs, and problem-solving skills.
In the workplace, collaboration offers a multitude of advantages. Collaborative learning promotes innovation by fostering diverse perspectives and the cultivation of new skills. It enhances team dynamics and results in more efficient processes, improved communication, and increased levels of innovation. Furthermore, the motivation and engagement that arise from peer support play a pivotal role in individual and organizational success. Recognizing one’s role within a team and the broader organizational context often leads to a greater sense of purpose and motivation. Additionally, social learning boosts efficiency and productivity by capitalizing on the collective knowledge and unique insights of team members Learnie was developed on a foundation of social learning and leverages the benefits of collaboration to promote innovation, increase engagement and motivation through peer support, and boost efficiency. The value of social learning in the workplace cannot be overstated. It not only drives individual learning and development but also fuels the progress of organizations.
Dr. Lisa McLeod is an educational consultant and VP of Content Strategy at Learnie.