Learning in social contexts has been shown to have significant effects on comprehension of material and retention of new information into Long-term Memory. Having discussions with peers can cement learning for adults, increasing Disciplinary Literacy and strengthening understanding of new information, including Numeracy skills. When learners discuss new concepts, they begin to think more critically, consider alternative perspectives, and create deeper meaning. Discussions can take place in person, online through written discussion boards, or through live virtual meetings. Peer discussion and dialogue can also aid those learners whose Primary Language is not English.
Use It In Your Learning Environment
For peer discussions to be effective, instructors should facilitate using authentic questions to help drive more critical conversation. Instructors can also transfer responsibility to learners by prompting them to generate their own discussion questions to guide group conversations. As adult learning can take place in a variety of settings, including digital, instructors should be clear in setting guidelines to create the most effective discussions. Authenticity is important to adult learners, so ensuring the discussions foster deeper listening, promote honoring multiple perspectives, build on the ideas of others, and provide an opportunity to challenge ideas is important. When these elements are embedded into the design of the learning environment, it can support learners' sense of Safety with Social Supports, promote risk taking which is associated with a Learner Mindset, and foster Social Awareness and Relationship Skills.
Products can support peer discussions by adding commenting features with notifications and nudges to respond. Online forums for written peer discussions should be interactive and alert learners when others reply or post to allow for timely responses. Developers can also enable video or audio features for live or asynchronous discussions. Products could also have the capability for learners to create workspaces such as whiteboards where students can show more disciplinary work, including Numeracy skills, for others to review.