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 isnt so and I will propose that
while the stages of the learners lives may vary, the needs and dynamics
of group life dont.
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
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.
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,
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
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!
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 groups process needs defined you can then indicate appropriate
leadership styles that will take advantage of the natural progression of the
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.