Notes on Meeting No.2 of Safeguard Group
Notes on Meeting No.2, December 7th 1968
"T-Group Theory and Laboratory Method" by Bradford, Gibb, Benn
In this, the T-Group is described as an innovation in re-education. It is closely associated with Training Laboratories, similarly described as an educational innovation.
A T-Group is a relatively unstructured group in which individuals participate as learners. The events and information for learning arises from the group itself as members struggle to create a productive and viable organisation, a miniature society. The objective of the T-Group is not therapy. The important assumption is made that the persons participating are well rather than ill. T-Groups are a central part of Training Laboratories. The Training Laboratory is a temporary residential community shaped to the learning requirements of its members.
1) Professional managers, administrators etc.
2) Professional helpers with educational and consultative responsibilities (e.g. Church workers).
3) A cross section of members of one organisation.
4) Individuals seeking development on a personal basis.
5) Children, youth, students.
6) Those from different cultural or national backgrounds.
Barriers to Learning and Change:-
Seeking early, easy answers.
Conflicts between familiar and unfamiliar.
Resistance to breakdown or divisions within the individual.
Reluctance to expose thoughts and behaviour to others.
Defensive reactions resulting from lack of individual security.
Lack of skill in assessing behaviour.
Lack of conceptual structures to plan the direction of change.
Hesitation to accept or give helpful reactions.
Lack of connection seen between Laboratory and potential utilisation.
Optimal Conditions for Training and Learning:-
The generating of behavioural output for analysis and learning.
A climate of permissiveness and enquiry.
Collaborative relationships for learning.
Models for data collection and study.
Maps for understanding and organising experiences.
Experimentation of new behaviours.
Organising and planning applications.
1) Group opening. 2) Group cleavages. 3) Private manipulation.
4) Establishing an effective feedback process.
5) Building a work organisation. 6)Ending the T-Group.
Points arising in discussion:-
Is it right to deliberately create an insecurity situation? Is such action the work of the devil? Could be justified if it breaks down the psychological barriers between people. We ought to be allowed to live behind a mask - but not a Machiavellian mask.
Training of a nun. Extreme case cited where nun falsely accused to determine reaction, secure submission. Even though the end may be worthy, does it justify the means ? Is the end worthy anyway? A though the nun entered voluntarily, she could have no idea what she was letting herself in for.
Advantages gained from T-Group. More relaxed when meeting other people and largely indifferent to their foibles, whereas previously would have been upset. But community still expects the priest to lead and not be one of them, even in modern estates where his house is identical and in the midst of others. Perhaps the community needs re-education by group techniques as well as the priest.
Of two members of Safeguard Group who have been on T-Group Laboratory courses, one would like to take next stage with the old group, the other in a new one. On one course, a participant judged that another member of the group was psychologically unfit to be on the course. He communicated his view to the trainer who took no action. The result was overstress on the unfit man and harmful effects on members of the group. The trainer should have taken action. This raises the question of the qualifications and experience of the trainers. Should they not be of an agreed standard before they are allowed responsibility for the conduct of T-Groups?
On the question of manipulation (Episode 3), the participant who suggested to the mild, inoffensive members of the group that the seating arrangements be changed was just having a bit of fun. He wanted to stir the group up. Might this not be a submerged authoritarian approach i.e. he wished to control the group but not appear to control it. The trainer felt that the incident had enabled the group to deal with private manipulators more effectively and had brought out ethical questions. One member of Safeguard Group had actually suggested to other members on a course he had attended that the seating should be changed to teach two persistent latecomers a lesson. It was good fun and the two targets had enjoyed the joke. Perhaps this wasn't private manipulation since the proposal had been made openly and agreed by all but the two late members. The friction generated in T-Groups by quite simple actions which would normally be shrugged off, probably arises from the isolated, unstructured and clinical nature of the Laboratory environment.
Discussion on T-Group article in "International Science & Technology"
(It is hoped to supply a copy to each member)
Members on the course described in the article were volunteers but it would have been difficult for them to refuse. The feeling that they have to jump on the bandwagon or else be left behind in isolation, is a form of coercion.
The housewife nearly broke under the strain. In general the course seemed well supervised. The trainers showed flexibility (e.g. in recognising strain and consequently shortening a session). There was a good deal of preparation of the group both from the point of view of relaxation of tension on arrival (by the group game) and information on what was to take place (the long talk). No artificial crises were generated by the trainers.
One member of the Safeguard Group thought that a 4-day Selection Conference for church workers was far more stressful!