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Updated 2009 2

Susie Rotch and the Leadership Series

SUSIE ROTCH  Psychologist

          A letter of introduction to
      Leadership: How to get the Very Best from your Teaching or Training Group.

Learning and in particular my learning, seems to take a very long time. We teach infants, teenagers and adults. A considerable proportion of our population is always undergoing some form of training or personal development.

This wide span of age groups would seem to deny the possibility of applying a comprehensive theory to the practice of teaching, training and personal skills development. But I believe this isn’t so and I will propose that while the stages of the learners’ lives may vary, the needs and dynamics of group life don’t.

Learning always requires change ... physical, emotional and intellectual ... and for the learner it can be a risky business.
For any learning to occur people have to give up their old certainties and open up to the possibility of a better way of understanding and managing their world.

When I took the time and effort I remembered some of the feelings and details of my first days in the school yard. There were very many elements in my earliest learning experiences that I now see were still present in the many subsequent years of learning.
I can remember my wants as a student and I can even more clearly remember my wants as a teacher and trainer. Many of the topics I studied as a psychologist reflected sharply on these experiences and consequently a lot of puzzling things clicked into place.

When I started work as a trainee teacher I rapidly found out that neither my course of study or my teaching rounds in any way prepared me for the actual nitty gritty work of running a class. This was something I was expected toacquire by osmosis just from observing more experienced teachers. Looking back on those teachers I now know that some of them had very good group leadership skills but none of them knew enough about group work to explain specifically to me what they were doing and why their classes were working so well.

Their focus was on their teaching and the
underlying mechanics of leading a group was incidental to them.

So I learned to manage my classes by trial and error, a method which cost me dearly in time and mistakes made. Later when I became a psychologist and psychotherapist I regularly ran psycho-educational, personal growth and therapy groups because I found they were such an effective way to encourage people to make positive changes.

In the course of these studies there was a little more theory taught to me but no unified theory of group leadership. I found this immensely frustrating and anxiety provoking as I like to have a coherent overview of what I am doing, and why.

Others must have found it difficult to get training in group leadership also because over time I received many requests from more junior psychotherapists wanting to learn group skills. So I decided to video a personal growth group and produce a program training people in the art and craft of working with groups.

My next task was to scan the literature for a theory of groupwork so that I could explain in logical, clear terms what to look for in a group and how to work effectively with these phenomena.

I soon found out why no-one had taught me an overview of group work skills, either in the classroom or later. I could not locate any such thing. So I set out to create it myself!

The various individual models that are presented here are not new, some were published over forty years ago but the way they mesh together to give you a framework for understanding and guiding group process that I think is new.

What I aim to do in the first part of this course is to introduce and demonstrate the inter-relations between a number of models of group behaviour. This is to enable you to see and then anticipate the patterns of group behaviour that will form and then manage the predictable stages that the group will go through.

With the group’s process needs defined you can then indicate appropriate leadership styles that will take advantage of the natural progression of the group.

In the second part of this course you will look at the practice wisdom on information structure, timing and performance issues. I also explain the fundamentals of good planning and structure in groups, together with the psychological research which supports these.

In the third part you will be considering what makes groups work and the underlying themes and the effects of individual role playing in the learning group. In addition we look at other important factors in you becoming and remaining a truly excellent group leader.

The psychological models that are used in this course satisfy my need for a coherent overview of group leadership. I hope that they will satisfy a similar need in you. Along with the theory I offer you a framework for evaluating whether you operate well as a group leader and what I believe to be ethical guidelines for running groups.

So for now, my best wishes to you in your endeavour of learning or improving your group leadership skills in whatever setting you will apply them.

Warmest regards,

Susie Rotch.

Leadership: Part 1: Process and Leadership Skills

Leadership: Part 2: Structure, Planning and Timing  

Leadership: Part 3: What makes groups effective, roles in groups, self rating and what makes a good group leader, self care and personal development, the ethics of group leadership.

Leadership DVD / Video
  Shows the models in part 1 operating in a variety of learning groups.

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