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Abstract

This article presents findings from a qualitative case study of informal peer groups (colloquia) in a Law programme at a major Norwegian university. The research question focused on how students perceived and experienced participation in peer colloquia, and the learning potential of such groupings is discussed in light of the formal study programme. The data source is twofold: diaries written by 20 law students and focus group interviews. The findings are discussed from a socio-cultural theory perspective, using Lave & Wenger’s concept of “legitimate peripheral participation”, and the relationship between the formal and the informal learning trajectories is one of the topics raised. Although the impact of informal peer groups on students’ learning outcomes cannot be measured, the findings from this study show that they play a crucial role in the total learning environment and that attendance in such groups increases over the first three years, contrary to findings in previous studies. The final discussion of what conditions foster or hinder the development of informal group learning and the implications for practice are relevant for all areas of higher education.

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