A work in progress edited by
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
Training Group, often referred to as the T-Group, began its evolution in 1946
and significantly changed adult education in the workplace.
It can be argued that the focus on skill improvement and training in the
areas of communications, conflict management, group work, etc., represented the
first time an educational component was deemed as an integral part of the work
environment. With the development
of the T-Group, the concepts of "learning and change" took root and
today, as a result, are embedded in adult learning and organizational practice (Laiken,
birth of the T-Group was an accident. Its inception came in the summer of 1946,
at State Teachers College in Connecticut, where a workshop was being held in
efforts to develop local leaders. The training leaders of the workshop were
Kenneth Benne, Leland Bradford, and Ronald Lippett.
The researchers were Kurt Lewin and Ronald Lippet along with three
graduate students acting as research-observers. The workshop's members were
mainly comprised of teachers and social workers along with a mix of individuals
from other professions. They were
chosen with the goal of facilitating understanding and compliance among the
community with a newly created statute called the Fair Employment Practices Act.
structure of the workshop divided participants into three small groups. Each of
the groups focused on the analysis of the participant's individual back-home
problems that they brought to the table through discussion and role playing
techniques. Each researcher was assigned to a group in order to observe the
interactions and behaviour that occurred throughout
the discussion session. It was
originally planned that after each session the researchers and team leaders
would meet in order to discuss, analyze and interpret the recorded observations.
However, when participants expressed an interest in sitting in on these
observation sessions, they too were included in the analysis process.
As a result of this open discussion and feedback, it was recognized that when participants contributed observations based on reflections of their own behaviour, they became energized. The researchers noted this and found that much learning was derived through these sessions. From this experience, participatory groups became regarded as a powerful tool in training programs. It was found that “understandings and skills of participation can be learned validly only through processes of participation in which the learner is involved” (Bradford, Gibb, Benne, 1964). Therefore, in this new type of training, group participants were led by a facilitator and encouraged to use data collected from their own interactions and reactions to one another in order to develop themselves.
The idea of the T-Group was
built upon and modified several times in laboratory settings in the following
years to come. It became a popular
vehicle for training and skills development even though glaring deficiencies
were found in the T-Group’s practical application. While much learning was
derived from these groups, it was found that the knowledge gained in the
laboratory environment was not transferable to the workplace. Participants, who
had received valuable insights from these training sessions, were often left
frustrated and angered by the process when it was discovered that their learning
could not be utilized and put into practice in their every day lives.
this raised serious questions around the
practicality of the T-Group process and propelled the exploration of
other, more transferable, training and
development methods, the T-Group was revolutionary in adult education and
organizational development because of its social-psychological approach to
organizations. It was a successful method because with the birth of the T-Group
came the conception of the human element in the workplace. After several years
of Taylorism (scientific management of labour), it was recognized for the first
time that group dynamics and self-actualization were a potent determinant of
productivity and job satisfaction. This
concept still holds true in today's workplace and as a result,
many companies have instituted several of the basic tenets that evolved from the
T-Group, ranging from feedback through performance evaluations to greater worker
participation through flattened hierarchies and learning organizations.
its modest beginning in 1946, the T-Group theory and practice has grown
considerably, significantly affecting organizational design and training
programs. More and more organizations are implementing quality circles and
quality improvement processes. These programs have evolved out of the T-Group
because they utilize small groups of employees to analyse their work and suggest
improvements to quality and productivity. However,
in its current use these groups are not formulated in an isolated laboratory;
instead, they have been integrated into the system as “parallel
organizations” (Mohram et al. 1989). These “parallel organizations” allow
that the richness and creativity that flows out of the small group experience is
not only relevant to the organization and to individual’s growth, but it is
also transferable and can be implemented into different areas the system.
Leland. Gibb, Jack. Benne, Kenneth. (1964) T-Group Theory and Laboratory
Method. John Wiley and Sons.
Marilyn.(2002) Organizations and the Adult Educator: Historical and
Theoretical Perspectives on Organization Development. Manuscript. OISE/UT.
Allan et al.(1989) Large Scale Organizational Change.
Citation: Author (2002). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/ (date accessed).
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