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Has it been two weeks already? It's officially December, time to wrap up the year!

For many right now, their focus shifts from goal attainment to goal setting. While it can be a great time to focus on strategic planning, it's also an awesome opportunity to connect with people, teams, and communities.

With this in mind, we're highlighting previously featured research that addresses how social interactions can impact learning and knowledge retention, specifically answering the questions:

  • Does the leader/employee relationship impact employee learning orientation?
  • Does group learning help improve self-directed learning?

We also have an open call for contributing writers!

Learning Starts at the Top 🔺

Considering much of our learning comes from social interaction (and it really is a lot!), studies have recently been focusing on learning from leadership. The following article sought to better understand the relationship between leadership and learning orientation. Pulling from social learning theory, researchers suggested that leader-member exchange (LMX) and perceptions of marketing capabilities would impact employee learning orientation. Further, since learning orientation drives employees to improve, the authors explored if this increased learning orientation actually brought about improved job performance (Hiu Kan Wong, Xinru Wu, Whitla, & Stanley Snell, 2022).

To break down what these terms mean regarding the study, employees’ “learning orientation” references the “level of motivation to learn and work and improve their job performance” (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022). When looking at employees’ perception of the firm’s marketing capabilities, researchers were interested in the employees’ views of how much their organization understands customer needs (both current and future), as well as if their organization is able to deliver on those needs (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022).

Why was leadership assessed in relation to learning? The relationship between an employee and leader should lead to a shared vision and understanding, which sets the foundation for workplace learning (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022). Within the LMX construct, researchers were interested in the quality of the exchange between an employee and supervisor, i.e., a high-quality LMX would include “high levels of trust, interaction, social support, formal/informal rewards, resources, and career development guidance” (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022).

To study these relationships, 224 employee-supervisor dyads completed a series of questionnaires to assess the above variables. Supervisors rated employee performance, while the employees rated the quality of the “LMX, perceived marketing capabilities, and their own level of learning orientation” (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022).

Results indicated “customer-facing subordinates’ learning orientation may be increased by high-quality LMX relationships and by the perceived marketing capabilities” of their organization (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022). LMX relationship quality was also directly related to job performance, indicating that trust, social support, and rewards from supervisors may improve job performance. The authors did not find a direct relationship between learning orientation and job performance- however, they indicated that this may be due to not measuring psychological safety (see: LSW Issue #25) or taking on new challenges (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022).

How can we utilize these findings? First, customer-facing leadership programs should focus on communication and on building a high-quality LMX. The other practical application is to improve employee perception of marketing capabilities. Building confidence in the organization to meet customer needs can help improve employee learning orientation (Hiu Kan Wong et al., 2022).

Key Takeaway: To improve customer-facing employees’ learning orientation, promote high-quality leadership/employee relationships & build employees’ perception of the organization's marketing capabilities. Bonus: high-quality LMX is also likely to improve employee job performance!

Read More ($): Hiu Kan Wong, A., Xinru Wu, C., Whitla, P., & Stanley Snell, R. (2022). How LMX and marketing capabilities guide and motivate customer-facing employees’ learning. Journal of Business Research, 138.

*This article was originally featured in LSW Issue 73

Group Learning and Self-Management 🧠

Researchers at Hubei University wanted to assess if a classroom focused on group cooperation would help improve nursing students’ self-directed learning. Considering self-directed learning involves planning and implementation by the learner, a lot of research on the topic has focused on individual factors that moderate these behaviors. However, external factors, such as social interaction, also influence self-directed learning. Thus, the authors were interested in whether group cooperation could impact self-directed learning. More specifically, the researchers investigated if group-oriented teaching methods improved SDL more than a conventional, lecture-style classroom.

In this single semester intervention, sophomore-level nursing students were split into one of two types of classes: 1. Group Cooperative Class (GCC) and 2. Conventional Class (CC). The GCC was led by the student groups. The groups organized the pre-class preparations and after-class assignments for themselves. Groups would present results of their learning for the instructor or teaching assistants to comment on. The CC included pre-class preparation, instructor lecture, and after-class assignments according to the school schedule (i.e., a ‘typical’ college course).

To assess outcomes, the authors evaluated learners' self-management, application of learning strategies, ability to obtain information, and ability to cooperate. At the end of the semester, overall SDL scores increased significantly for students in the GCC, but did not significantly increase for students in the CC. When looking into the sub-dimensions, students in the GCC were found to have higher scores on the “ability to self-manage” and “ability to cooperate” domains at post-intervention. Post-intervention assessment scores did not differ between the groups.

What does this all mean to us? Well, self-directed learning was improved for students in the group cooperative class, indicating that working in a group setting may lead to an increase in self-management and cooperation skills. Thus, if self-management and cooperation are important factors in a particular training course, group-based cooperative learning might be something to consider!

Key Takeaway: Creating an educational environment that intentionally fosters collaborative group work may help to improve learner self-management and cooperation skills, thus impacting overall self-directed learning.

Read More ($): Wang, Y., Ma, J., Gu, Y., Wang, J., Chen, C., Zhang, Y., & Wang, R. (2021). How does group cooperation help improve self-directed learning ability in nursing students? A trial of one semester intervention. Nurse Education Today, 98.

*This article was previously featured in LSW issue 52

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