Cohort-Based Learning: The Solution to Modern Professional Development Needs

When learning in groups, people tend to have a better understanding of the concepts being taught, versus when they are learning alone. There is strong scientific evidence backing the benefits of having students learn and work in groups, which is likely why cohort-based learning is winning in modern adult education and professional development programs. What’s more, when it comes to asking for help in the workplace, about 55% of employees would rather turn to their peers first, and their managers second. While most managers are happily willing to offer solutions, there is a certain ease in peer-to-peer learning.

Cohort-based learning is a collaborative learning style in which a group of individuals advance through an educational program together. This type of learning is ideal for helping participants understand and apply soft – or power – skills, which is critical in leadership development; leaders can no longer rely solely on industry knowledge and technical skills. When done through a third-party, offsite educational provider, participants can come from different industries and are often at different levels of their careers but have a singular goal of increasing their power skills through learning and nurturing concepts and traits that can be applied in their work environment. Some of these traits include collaboration, teamwork, empathy, communication, social dexterity, and emotional intelligence, which are essential to effective leadership of others. Cohort-based learning programs are often managed over several months, skilling up participants one session at a time.

While cohort instructors provide structure and guidance, most of the learning takes place peer-to-peer. Participants make discoveries in real-time, reflect upon and share their experiences, and inspire confidence in each other through feedback and encouragement. Other benefits of cohort-based learning include:

Collaboration: Cohort-based learning encourages social interaction and collaboration with program participants. This type of experience not only fosters relationships but also provides a working relationship between peers that wouldn’t usually come together in the same working environment. This often presents unique opportunities for different points of view, opening dialogue, and creating understanding between peers with differences in their experiences.

Networking Opportunities: Cohort participants can come from different industries, backgrounds, and cultures. The more participants learn about their peers, the more they open doors for further networking and relationships. These relationships may also influence career trajectories and development paths, creating opportunities that may not have previously existed.

Stronger Engagement: Relationships organically form as a result of cohort-based learning. Cohort participants take part in live, group exercises that include collaboration, participation, and discussion. These activities may require participants to ponder their experiences, openly discussing their take on the exercise, and how it relates to their workplace.

Delivers Impact: Across all professional development and leadership enhancement programs, impact is achieved when quality, relevant content is clearly understood and seamlessly applied in real-world settings. Successful cohort-based learning programs should employ the critical factors necessary to drive impactful learning in short bursts at a time. When effectively delivered, participants are able to retain, implement, and demonstrate what they’ve learned, spreading the program’s impact throughout the workplace.

Peer Support: Cohort-based learning creates connections between peers. If there is a concept or topic that is unclear or misunderstood, participants can connect with one another, helping with clarification and understanding where needed. While the session instructor is generally the expert on the topics, some participants may feel more comfortable asking questions quietly, leaning in on the support and expertise of their peers.

Expanded Perspective: As cohort participants make connections and form relationships with their fellow peers, they are exposed to different opinions, ideas, and experiences. By authentically connecting with others, participants can put themselves in each other’s shoes, gaining social reasoning and rationale that helps them to better understand and overcome workplace challenges.

At Workforce Solutions, we believe in the power of cohort-based learning. Our professional development and corporate training programs utilize cohort models to enhance the learning experience. These cohorts include our proven leadership programs, Leadership BasecampLeadership InstituteLeadership Excellence, and Leadercast, as well as others that cover power skills development, professional growth, and career improvement. Learn how we use cohort-based learning as the solution to modern professional development needs.