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Updated 2009 6

How to get the Very Best
from your Teaching or Training Group

A Manual of 280 pages plus a 60 minute DVD video

Susie Rotch Psychologist

Leadership skills

Part 2.    Structure, planning and timing.

After completing the first part of this leadership course you should have a good understanding of and ability to track the developmental task which the group is tackling and therefore the stage at which it is operating.

You will know what to look for from both the individual group members and the group in terms of motivational needs and group behaviour. As you can see from the contents of Part 2 we will look more at catering for the needs and characteristics of individuals in the group rather than the process of change in the life of a group.

Contents.   Part 2.     Structure, planning and timing

  • Introduction to Part 2.
  • The challenge of assessment.
  • Planning and structuring your groups to succeed - the concepts.
  • Basic principles underpinning successful group management.
        A need for rhythm. ( see below )
        Figure and ground.
        Warm-up to tasks.
        Closure / wind-ups.
  • Summary of good structure.
  • Planning and structuring groups - the application.
        Introducing goals.
        Session warm-ups.
        Pacing and alternate activities.
  • Closing a session.
  • Closing a course / program.

Group planning, structuring and timing

Looking and learning

Differentiating between the behaviour of groups and the behaviour of people in groups is reminiscent of the expression, ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’, the two may seem indistinguishable. The two considerations are entirely entwined and cannot but impact on each other.

However one of the values of psychology is to suggest ideas that allow the identification and therefore possible manipulation of the behaviours that are typically found in groups. The material in Part 2 is clear restatement of many well-known principles but in the context of the preceeding explanation of group process, these ideas could provide you with many insights into effective leadership techniques.

Planning and Structuring your groups to succeed:
Introduction to the concepts

 Planning and structuring a group program or session can seem overwhelmingly difficult and complex. There are so many ways you could present your material, whether practical, theoretical or experiential. And as you now know there are many ways you can interact with your learning group.

This second section of the program will outline some of the practical concepts we have about ways of operating and turns them into principles for guiding the planning and structuring of your material for presentation to the group.

I believe that these principles are universal. They apply no matter what sort of group you are running - from skills training groups, to academic groups, to experiential groups and to psycho-educational ones.They also apply across all ages from pre-kindergarteners to elderly citizens.

Now let’s look at some of the basic priniciples that underlie competent group planning.

Basic Principles underpinning the planning of successful group management: 
A need for rhythm

Humans have a profound need for structure and rhythm. This need for structure and rhythm apparently is part of our biological inheritance as human beings.

The rhythms of our lives include both long and short term cycles. Music is the most obvious everyday association we have with short-term rhythms but even a brief, well-told story or joke will have a minute rhythm that plays with and rewards our delight in cycles of explanation or development.

It is important to know that humans operate from a biological ‘hour’ of approximately 1.5 hours of clock time. This is consistent with the cycle first noted in sleep research. Most people cycle from dreaming to deep sleep and back to dreaming in about 1.5 hours.

Your group members will cycle from inattention to concentrating effectively and then back to inattention in approximately that length of time. They need a break or at least a major change in activity at least every biological hour but preferably every 45 minutes, or half that ‘hour’.

The implications for planning a group are obvious. Sessions need to be about 1.5 hours long or broken up into segments of approximately this length. Often it works to halve that time and make each session approximately of 1.5 hours into two equal segments or to run sessions of 45 minutes with a significant break after two sessions.

Over the years I have attended many courses where this basic fact is unknown or ignored. Corporate training activities and professional seminars seem to be the worst offenders. Perhaps in both situations the organisers unconsciously or consciously think that it can’t be good medicine unless there is some unpleasantness or suffering attached.

You too have possibly sat through lengthy sessions which become endurance tests rather than opportunities for learning. As the session or the day wears on the likelihood is that nothing except stoicism is being learned.

Management training

If you want your participants to learn effectively, give them breaks after every 1.5 hours and vary the nature of the learning within that time.If you need variety and change so does your group.

The first exercises are to help you get some practice in identifying and using the biological hour. They are best done as part of your preparation for a real course or program. You can then test your skills in information management in the best possible way, by actually running the course and seeing how well the ideas work in practice.

Leadership: Part 1: Process and Leadership Skills 

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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