Balancing social engagement with reflection: cohort-based learning design

Dec 29, 2021 by Adam Bai

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This is part of a series on effective cohort-based learning design. Discover more about why cohort-based learning is the latest L&D trend, explore how global companies are driving transformation through cohort-based learning, and learn why peer interactions are so effective at fostering great learning outcomes.

Why reflection matters in learning

With all the buzz around cohort-based learning, it’s tempting to focus too much on the importance of social interaction in learning outcomes. Yet the most effective cohort-based experiences strike the right balance between social engagement and individual reflection.

Research demonstrates that we almost always learn most effectively through organized consideration of our own experiences. Reflection is correlated to self-efficacy, or “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to manage prospective situations.” It’s also related to cognitive gains that can only be triggered by this sort of reflection. Learners often acquire new knowledge tacitly, without conscious processing in the moment. This makes articulating and working through new knowledge essential for supporting deeper, long-term individual understanding.

While the social aspects of cohort-based experiences are important, so are the elements that spur this individual reflection.

The connection between reflection and learning outcomes

In a study within the IT services firm Wipro, researchers analyzed the role of reflection in new employee onboarding regimens. One group of employees received a simple prompt to reflect on a daily basis:

Please take the next 15 minutes to reflect on the training day you just completed. Please write about the main key lessons you learned as you were completing your training. Please reflect on and write about at least two key lessons. Please be as specific as possible.

The other group received no prompt. The group that was prompted to reflect earned a 23.2% higher score on exams and showed better performance at their customer service jobs over their first three months of employment.

But there’s a caveat here, too. Without additional prompting, the relative performance gains disappeared after a few months. This suggests that regular opportunities to reflect distributed over time are necessary for these positive outcomes to last.

Takeaways for cohort-based learning design

In our decade of creating cohort-based experiences at Nomadic, we’ve learned that striking this balance between reflection and social interaction is particularly key for teaching the kind of nuanced and highly social capabilities essential to modern leadership.

For more takeaways on cohort design, read our report, Cohort-Based Learning at Scale: Eight Principles for Success. We discuss why cohort-based learning is gaining so much popularity, how to ensure cohort-based learning design is effective, and the research behind it all.

Interested to discover more about Nomadic’s cohort-based academies? Learn about our approach, or get in touch to request a demo.

Why cohort-based learning now?

Cohorts are an immensely effective learning tool for hard-to-teach domains like leadership and creativity. Learn why cohort-based experiences are the new “secret sauce” of effective learning.