Mutual Learning- A Model for Learning From and With Others

As I shared in my last post, college really changed my life and put me in an uncomfortable environment. And when I began to realize that my use of "The Unilateral Control Model" didn't work well, I knew I had to do something different. My exploring lead me to the foundational work of what is now known as "The Mutual Learning Model."

When I discovered that there were other ways of interacting with people, my world started expanding. For the first time I enjoyed learning. I enjoyed the discovery process and learning what influences behavior and change in people. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. My relationships with others became deeper and more significant. I learned to value other perspectives.

So it was just a matter of time before I came across the work of Roger Schwarz, as described in The Skilled Facilitator. The explanation of and comparison of "The Unilateral Control Model" and "The Mutual Learning Model" resonated with me and my experiences of interacting with others.

In my last post I summarized "The Unilateral Control Model." Today I will summarize "The Mutual Learning Model." Once again the essence of this model is as described below and can be found in more detail in The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz.

Core Values:

  • Valid information
  • Free and informed choice
  • Internal commitment
  • Compassion


  • I have some information; others have other information
  • Each of us may see things the others do not
  • Differences are opportunities for learning
  • People are trying to act with integrity, given their situation


  • Test assumptions and inferences
  • Share all relevant information
  • Use specific examples and agree on important words
  • Explain reasoning and intent
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • Combine advocacy and inquiry
  • Jointly design the approach
  • Discuss undiscussables
  • Use a decision-making rule that generates the commitment needed


  • Increased understanding, reduced conflict and defensiveness
  • Increased trust
  • Fewer self-fulfilling, self-sealing processes
  • Increased learning
  • Increased effectiveness
  • Increased quality of worklife

While I find it difficult to practice this model at times, I find plenty of opportunities where it could make a significant difference. Just last night, as I was traveling home from a meeting, I was doing my usual radio channel surfing. On almost every fourth channel was a talk-show host. Not one of them was practicing this model. I'll even bet most of them have never heard of the model, let alone studied it.

In group meetings where people are struggling to make decisions, working extremely hard to win everyone over to their point of view, "The Mutual Learning Model" could enhance the group productivity. If you are interested in more detail about the model, check out Schwarz's work. As always, I'm interested in your thoughts and reflections.

Until next time, when you'll no doubt read more about human interaction and change, enjoy the great spring weather.