10 Things to Know About Social Learning and Student Success
Social learning and student success do correlate, but effective educators know the whats and whys behind the connection. Book learnin’ is great stuff, of course. Well-rounded lessons involve teaching more than what can be found within the confines of a textbook, however, and require students to build up their inter- and intrapersonal skills. MOOCs, the edupunk movement, and other recent higher ed trends recently pushed this age-old concept to the forefront because of how much they rely on encouraging the involved students to gather together and build off one another’s strengths while improving their weaknesses.
And that motivation rubs off on their peers! The highest-performing students typically shied away from the Forever Alone model and gathered in groups to prepare for exams, ask and answer questions, discuss projects, and more. Some education professionals even cite participation in a study group as the No. 1 sign that they’ll probably excel in a particular class.
Japanese students exposed to social learning via customizable digital “guides” picked up the language much faster than their counterparts who were not. After a cumulative total of 12 instructional hours, the parts of their brains capable of processing language proved more alert. Although self-directed, the lessons contained a more “human” element when participants selected virtual faces with which to communicate. Social learning doesn’t have to involve person-to-person interaction to work, merely the suggestion of it!
When combined with emotional learning, the social strategy lessens the risk of children bullying one another, acting out, and other disruptive and/or dysfunctional behaviors. It builds both self-awareness and empathy, making the educational environment a safer space for anxious kids. Happiness and mental health both act as markers of success – more than grades, in fact – and generally lead to improved classroom performance. Plus, it makes life significantly easier for their parents, teachers, and peers!
Social learning advocates appreciate the practice’s newfound social media bent because it opens up their students to a wider array of ideas and insights than the traditional classroom. Ideas and insights that help them nurture creativity, empathy, critical thinking skills, and other academic necessities. And, in an increasingly diverse world, the ability to understand problems from multiple angles and put forth the effort to explore other points of view proves essential outside the classroom as well.
Increases the risk of distractions:
To act like the social learning strategies out there possess no drawbacks would be most shortsighted. Not to mention wrong! Obviously, it boasts some negatives students and teachers alike need to address. The more individuals packed into a group, the likelihood of distractions and veering off topic increases exponentially. So participants must stay diligent to ensure they learn and accomplish something within the allotted time frame.
Because so much social learning these days occurs in online class and MOOC environments, supporters believe it might prove useful when trying to shut down that pesky ol’ achievement gap. Some teachers use them as supplements to assist students falling behind in catching up. Others believe that banding different personalities together willingly means forging solutions to help address the inevitable hiccups that arise. It might also serve as a fertile breeding ground for perpetuating social justice ideals.
When students feed off one another’s enthusiasm and feel engaged with the material and their peers alike, it increases their chances of completing additional research and assignments. Even if they receive no extra credit or reward! Social learning seems to correlate with increased interest, and increased interest usually leads to increased grades. Some tech-savvy high school kids have even taken to blogging in order to share what they’ve picked up with others for no reason other than a love of discourse.
MOOCs, online courses, and other contemporary social learning outfits receive praise for offering free or low-cost alternatives (or supplements) to the traditional classroom settings. It’s common knowledge that stress can and does interfere with work and school performance, so alleviating one major source renders education that much more palatable. However, this benefit only works within these settings, not more “established” environments that just so happen to incorporate social learning strategies.
Again, relegated to MOOCs, open course (when applicable), edupunk, and online courses. Anyone who attended any sort of school with other individuals knows how much disruptive, bored, angry, or apathetic students who don’t much want to be in class drag everyone else down with them. These sociable digital settings only attract attendees eager to pick up what the instructors put down, thereby eliminating some of the more abrasive attitudes that make learning less-than-fun and chip away at enthusiasm and motivation.
“Social learning” stands poised to swell into a trendy buzzword ultimately losing its meaning over time. But it really should not be portrayed as something exciting and new and sexy. Especially since the whole concept pretty much rivets itself to education on the whole. Almost all learning is social to some degree. It just never had a fancy name. Although the shape of things might change thanks to technology, the indicators that a student would succeed remain largely the same.