Peer Support: How your colleagues influence what you learn and apply

To influence learning transfer we can't treat our learners as secluded individuals who learn and work in total isolation; we need to consider the environment in which learning transfer takes place which invariably involves a lot of social interactions with peers, other learners, and leadership. Having a supportive peer network has consistently shown to positively affect learning transfer (Grossman & Salas, 2011).

A supportive peer network involves the learner’s peers show support when new learning is applied and encouraging and showing patience when new skills are being attempted.

Stes et al. (2007) studied the level of transfer of an academic population who had recently completed a year-long professional development course. They assess that a major constraint on the level of transfer was the learner’s perceptions of having a supportive network of peers with whom to collaborate. The research of Bushe and Gilpin-Jackson (2007) found similar results when they studied the learning transfer of 18 participants attending a management development course. Results indicated that peer-support played a substantial role in the amount of learning transferred to their role, in particular, participants were motivated by having a large number of peers attend the same training, and they were influenced by the ability to give and receive feedback from their peers. The opportunity to network with peers has been shown to maintain learning transfer six months post-training (Hawley & Barnard, 2005).

Key takeaways:

For learning leaders, take steps to understand the support network in place in your company.

  • Survey learners about the level of support they currently receive from peers and leadership.

  • Try to conduct whole-team training, if possible, or assemble cohorts from the same team to increase peer support.

  • If whole-team approaches are not possible, pair-up learners post-training in a “buddy system” to increase support and follow-through on learning.

If you are interested in reading more, see the research cited below:

Bushe, G. R., & Gilpin-Jackson, Y. (2007). Leadership development training transfer: A case study of post-training determinants. Journal of Management Development, 26(10), 980-1004.

Grossman, R., & Salas, E. (2011). The transfer of training: What really matters. International Journal of Training and Development, 15(2), 103-120. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2011.00373.x

Hawley, J. D., & Barnard, J. K. (2005). Work environment characteristics and

implications for training transfer: A case study of the nuclear power industry. Human Resource Development International, 8(1), 65-80. doi:10.1080/1367886042000338308

Stes, A., Clement, M., & Petegem, P. V. (2007). The effectiveness of a faculty training programme: Long‐term and institutional impact. International Journal for Academic Development, 12(2), 99–109. doi: 10.1080/13601440701604898

About Fergal:

Fergal is a learning transfer expert who shares his evidence-based learning transfer approaches with the learning community. Fergal holds an MSc in Education and Training, and a BSc in Psychology. Contact Fergal for speaking engagements, writing opportunities, or learning transfer consultancy by visiting

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