Small group learning

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Small group learning is an educational approach that focuses on individuals learning in small groups and is distinguished from learning climate and organizational learning. It can take the form of a classroom-based training through experiential learning activities such as case study analysis, role plays, games, simulations, and brainstorming, among others.[1] These activities require the learners to work together to achieve a learning goal.[1] The group work has to be carefully planned and frequently requires a facilitator to ensure group progress. In addition, the group function and the learning that takes place needs to be assessed and evaluated. The material learned is just as important as the group's ability to achieve a common goal. Facilitatory skills are important and require the teacher to ensure that both the task is achieved and the group functioning is maintained.


Small group learning allows students to develop problem-solving, interpersonal, presentational and communication skills, all beneficial to life outside the classroom. These generic skills are difficult to develop in isolation and require feedback and interaction with other individuals. Specific advantages of this learning model for the group of learners include the opportunity to compare learning performance with peers and the development of a sense of responsibility for their learning progress.[2] The small group learning is also used for adult learning because it is associated with active involvement, collaboration, and problem-solving.[2][3]

Although this practice is not the best way for students to develop and improve on these skills there are some ways to make this effective for both the student and the instructor. According to Francine Armenth-Brothers in her Article, "How to Make Small-Group Learning Work," some things to keep in mind when implementing this practice are, do not start without directions, which would help alleviate confusion in a group. Also, the instructor should choose the members in a group and when doing so keep learning levels and student diversity in mind.[4]

Some experts have criticized small group learning, especially that which consists of extremely small groups, for reducing learn-responsibility and thereby reducing the motivation learn.[5] When learning in a group, individuals can lose sight of their learning objectives and prioritize those they have in common in others. In addition, they may be subject to the free-rider effect in groups that have a few highly skilled members.


  1. ^ a b Rothwell, William (2008). Adult Learning Basics. Alexandria, Virginia: American Society for Training and Development. p. 98. ISBN 9781562865337.
  2. ^ a b Rideout, Elizabeth (2001). Transforming Nursing Education Through Problem-based Learning. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 75. ISBN 0763714275.
  3. ^ Race, Phil (2001). The Lecturer's Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Learning, Teaching & Assessment. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780749435394.
  4. ^ Armenth-Brothers, Francine (2009). "How to Make Small-Group Learning Work" (PDF). Teaching For Success (How to Become a Win-Win Teacher Hero): 7. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  5. ^ J. Scott Armstrong (2012). "Natural Learning in Higher Education". Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning.

See also[edit]

Small group communication