Learning in friendship groups: developing students’ conceptual understanding through social interaction

Carl Senior, Chris Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role that student friendship groups play in learning was investigated here. Employing a critical realist design, two focus groups on undergraduates were conducted to explore their experience of studying. Data from the "case-by-case" analysis suggested student-to-student friendships produced social contexts which facilitated conceptual understanding through discussion, explanation, and application to "real life" contemporary issues. However, the students did not conceive this as a learning experience or suggest the function of their friendships involved learning. These data therefore challenge the perspective that student groups in higher education are formed and regulated for the primary function of learning. Given these findings, further research is needed to assess the role student friendships play in developing disciplinary conceptual understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1031
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2014 Senior and Howard. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • friendships
  • collaborative learning
  • student understanding
  • study groups


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