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GROUPPSYCHOTHERAPY
ARTICLES:

OPERATIVEGROUPDYNAMICSINSCHOOL
SETTINGSSTRUCTURINGTOENHANCE
EDUCATIONAL,SOCIALANDEMOTIONAL
PROGRESS
BYROBERTAL.SLAVIN
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OPERATIVEGROUPDYNAMICSINSCHOOL
SETTINGSSTRUCTURINGTOENHANCE
EDUCATIONAL,SOCIALANDEMOTIONAL
PROGRESS
RobertaL.Slavin
FirstpublishedinGroup,Vol26,No4,Dec.2002
Email:rlslavin@fcc.net
Author'sinstructionsregardingcopyright/distribution:
Thispaperisundercopyrightandmaynotbequotedwithouttheauthor's
permission.Colleaguesshouldhonorthisasthoughthepaperwere
published.Theauthorwouldwelcomeallcomments,especiallycritical
ones,andwillcitethesecommentsappropriately.

Thisarticlewilldescribethedynamicstakingplaceinschoolsettings,particularlyinclassrooms.Literature
pertainingtotheuseofgroupdynamicsinclassroomswillbepresented.Anumberofsignificantgrouptherapy
conceptswillbeaddressed.Thesewillincludegroupasawhole,groupstructure,transferencecounter
transference,theschoolandtheclassroomasholdingenvironments,andtherapeuticfactors.Somepractical
dynamicstrategiesthataremeanttostrengthengroupoperationsinclassroomswillalsobeincluded.The
articlewillbeguidedbythewriterspersonalexperienceswithinschoolsettingsandclassrooms.
KEYWORDS:groupdynamicsinschoolsettings,dynamicsinclassroomsgroupasawholeinclassrooms,
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holdingenvironments,transferencecountertransferenceinschoolsettings,emotionalprogress.

INTRODUCTION
Intheearly1900s,theSuperintendentofSchoolsinFranceproudlynotedthathe
knewexactlywhatsubjectwasbeingtaughttoeverystudent,nationwide,everyhourofthe
schoolday.Thistypeofrigidcurriculumisnowusedinmanyschooldistrictsalloverthe
UnitedStates:howevermanyeducatorsrealizethatamyriadoffactorsotherthancurriculum
affecthowandwhychildrenlearn.Theseincluderelationshipswithparentingfigures,
emotionaldevelopment,health,trauma,andgroupdynamics.Unfortunatelytheyarenotbeing
recognizedandconsideredwhentheacademiccurriculumisbeingdeveloped.Kubie(1960)has
stated,boththeintellectualdevelopmentandcreativitywillcontinuetobeseriouslyhampered
unlesswefindouthowtomakeemotionalmaturationapartofoureducation(p.242).
Kubiefurtherespousedwhathecalledthechildsfifthamendmentfreedom,thatthe
childhastherighttoknowwhatheorshefeels,butthatdoesnotmeanheorshehastheright
toactimpulsivelyonhisfeelings(p.242).Theconspiracyofsilence,notbeingallowedtotalk
aboutwhatheorshefeels,mustbereplaced.Childrenmustbeencouragedandhelpedtotalk
aboutlove,hate,jealousy,fear,curiosity,andsoon.Asthesetopicsarearticulatedand
recognized,childrenwillbebetterabletodealwiththeacademicsoftheirschoollives.The
pressureofinternalneedsandconflictwillnolongerbesabotagingtheircuriosity,creativity,
andmotivation.
Althoughgroupprocessandgroupdynamictherapyhavegenerallybeenviewedasthe
domainofcliniciansininstitutionalsettingsorinprivatepractice,manyofthetheories
expoundedanduseingrouppracticecaneasilybetransferredandutilizedwithinthearenaof
educationalsettingsinordertohelpchildrenlearnwithoutundoconflict.Thewriteris
convincedbyherownexperienceasagroupparticipantandgroupleader,aswellasateacher,
schoolpsychologist,andteachermentor,thatincreasingteachersandcliniciansofthemany
dynamicsoccurringintheclassroomwouldenablethemtocreateamoresuccessfuleducative
process,academicallyandemotionally.Grouptherapytheorycanplayapositiverolein
understandingandresolvingconflictsthathaveledtoseriousschoolproblemssuchasstudent
dropout(Garnier,Stein,andJacobs,1977),inadequatehandlingofstudentdiversity(Grossman,
1955),anddelinquency(Downs&Rose,1991).
SigmundFreud,inhisintroductiontoWaywardYouth(Aichhorn,1935),postulated
thattheapplicationofpsychoanalysistoeducationwasexceedinglyimportantbecause
dynamicsgiveteachersameansofunderstandingtheirstudents.AnnaFreud,whowas
originallytrainedasateacher,alsodiscussedtherelationshipbetweenpsychoanalysisand
pedagogy.Thisconnectionwouldallowteacherstovieweducationalmethodologymore
criticallyintermsofbothemotionalandintellectualdevelopment.Whileallfacetsofchildrens
minds,suchastheirneedtoexplore,theircreativity,andfantasyshouldbeused,itisalso
importantfortheteachertoknowtocreateboundariesthatwouldtempertheexpressionoftheir
traitsinordertoallowmaturationandappropriatebehaviortotakeplace.Thewriterbelieves
thattheabovetenetswithinagroupdynamicmodelwouldhelpteacherstobetterunderstand
theircomplexrolesaswellasthoseoftheirstudents.Bothteachersandstudentsmustworkin
tandeminordertodevelopclassroomclimatesthatwouldfacilitategreateracademic
achievement(Slavin,2000).
SlavsonandSchiffer(1975)havenoted:
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Children{andteachers}spendmoretimeinschoolsthananywhereelseexceptthehome.Forbetterorforworse,
theschoolrepresentsalargepartoftheirdailylives.Theschoolisnotonlyadvantageouslysituatedwithrespect
totheidentificationofdevelopmental{andrelational}problems,butalsohasthepotentialforcarryingon
preventiveandrehabilitativeprograms.Thechildren{andteachers}areinapositiontoexperiencetheeffectsof
correctivemeasuresinthesamesettinginwhich,inmostcases,wasinstrumentalinexposingtheirdifficulties(p.
427).

Thisarticlewillfocusonseveraldynamicsoccurringwithinclassroomsettings.Whatcauses
thesedynamicstooccur,whattheyareresponsiveto,andhowtheymightberelinedinorderto
improveemotionalandacademicfunctioningofpupilswithintheclassroomsettingareall
issuestobeexamined.
HISTORYOFGROUPSTRATEGIESINCLASSROOMSETTINGS
Earlyliteratureongroupdynamicsincludesreferencestoclassesinwhichstudentswere
experiencingemotionaloradjustmentproblems(Aichhorn,1935Long,Morse,andNewman,
1965)aswellasdynamicsoccurringwithinregularschoolsettingsandclasses(Banyand
Johnson,1964).Hopkins,(1941)andBaxter&Cassidy(1943)focuseddirectlyontheclass
groupanditsinteractionintheclassroom.Inthelate40sBradford,Benne,andLippitt(1948)
emphaticallymaintainedthatthestudyofgroupdynamicscouldbringagreaterunderstanding
ofbehaviorsinclassrooms.Trow,Zander,Morse,&Jenkins(1950)observedthattheconduct
andbeliefsofpupilswereofteninfluencedbysmallcohesivegroupswithintheclassroom,and
thatthesegroupsdemandedthattheirmembersconformtocertaingroupstandards.Themore
cohesivethegroup,themorepowerithadoverindividualmembers.Inmanyareaofeducation,
groupprocessinclassroomwasbeingdefinedanditsimportancenoted.PassowandMackenzie
(1952)emphasizedtheneedtorecognizegroupdynamicsbecausechildrenaretaughtingroups.
Theybelievedthatclassroomdifficultiessuchasdisciplineproblems,failureofwellplanned
projects,andresistanceoftheclasstochangecouldstemfromamisunderstandingofthegroup
processintheclassroom.JohnsonandBany(1970)andSlavin(2000)alsopostulatedthatsome
ofthesalientissuesincludedclassroomclimate,classroommanagement,andtheuseofpeer
groupstoattainsocialadjustmentandfurtherscholasticachievement.
GROUPASAWHOLEINCLASSROOMSETTINGS
Freud(1921/1960)andhiscotemporariesLeBon(1920/1977)andMcDougall
(1922/1973)recognizedthattherewereunderlying,unconsciouspatternsandprocessesthat
cannotbedirectlyaccountedforbymemberspersonalitiesorinterpersonalrelationships.The
knowledgeofthisconceptwouldenableteacherstounderstandandappreciatehowstudents,
andteacher,withoutrealizingit,unconsciouslyjointogetherwitheachothertoenactsocially
sharedprocessesthatrelievethemoftensionandanxiety.
Inasimilarvein,Ettin(1999)hasconceptualizedthegroupasawholeasa
shadowyphenomenon,lurking,hardlyseen,yeteverinevidence,thegroupingthatprovidesthe
commongroundinwhichindividualmembersgiveitanidentity(p.148).Thissocalled
invisiblegroupmustmakeitselfknownthroughitsmembers,sincebydefinitionithasno
meansofexpressiononitsown.Thereforeindividualmembersunconsciouslytakeontheroles
andvoicesofthecollectivegroup.Withoutanyknowledgeofthegroupasawhole
phenomenon,ateachermayeasilybelievethatheorshehasaclassofmisbehavingindividual
childrenratherthanaclassgroupthatissignalingtheirgroupneedsandconcernsthroughtheir
members.
Onceteachersbecomesensitizedandresponsivetotheunspokenemotionalsignalsof
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theclassroomgroup,theyareinabetterpositiontocommunicateandmakeemotionalcontact
withtheclassinamannerthathelpstheclassalleviatetension..Thiswouldinvolvetheteacher
andstudentsworkingtogethertodeveloptacticshelpfulinalleviatingtheirtensions.Ateacher
whoattendedastressworkshopledbythewriter(Slavin,19961997)notedthatshefelt
giddyandwantedtothrowchairs.Asthetopicwasdiscussedinthegroup,themembers
complainedthattheywereworkingtoohard.Theywantedmoreplayandlesswork.They
finallyrealizedthattheywantedtheleadertodotheworkforthem.Butisshedidtheworkfor
them,theywouldneverlearntodoitforthemselves.Thisconclusionhelpedthembecome
moreunderstandingoftheirstudentswhentheirstudentsrebelledagainstdoingtheirwork.
GROUPSTRUCTUREINCLASSROOMSETTINGS
Inallclassroomsettingswithwhichthewriterisfamiliar,theteacheristhe
designatedleaderandthestudentsarethefollowers.Asetofrulesandregulations,aswellas
designatedpunishmentsforbreakingthoserules,isplacedinahighlyvisiblepositioninfrontof
thestudents.Ithasgenerallybeenassumedthatformalstructurespermittheleaderstofunction
effectively,helpmembersperformtheirtasks,andseethatthepurposeofthegrouphasbeen
achieved(Bany&Johnson,1964).Inclasseswhereruleinfractionsareoverlystressed,andthe
pupilscriticized,thewriterhasobservedalargeamountofreportingandblamingothers,onthe
partofthestudents.Thechildrenalsoseemunabletoworktogethercollaboratively.
Inclasseswheretheneedforrulesisdiscussedwiththechildren,andthechildrenare
encouragedtounderstandwhyrulesareneededandhowtheycanhelpeachotherfollowthe
rules,thereisaminimumofscapegoatingandtaletelling.
Inordertobeabletofollowrules,childrenhavetodevelopasenseofresponsibility.
Thisisamaturationaltaskthatincludesemotional,social,andpsychologicalgrowth.
DEVELOPINGASENSEOFRESPONSIBILITY
Inorderforstudentstoworktogetherasagroup,theymustfirstlearnhowtowork
together,setgoals,anddevelopasenseofcohesionandrespectforthestudentswithwhomthey
areworking.
Developingasenseofresponsibilityiscomplicatedanddependentonthechildrensemotional
growth(Mahler,Pine,&Bergman,1975).Withoutanabilitytoacceptresponsibilitychildren
wouldhaveadifficulttimemakinganadjustmenttosociety,inthiscasetotheclassroomand
theschool.Fromadynamicstance,someoftheareasnecessaryforthedevelopmentofasense
ofresponsibilityare:
EgodevelopmentTheabilitytodifferentiatebetweenfactandfantasy,thedevelopmentof
perspective
andjudgmentalskills(Blanck&Blanck,1974)
SuperegodevelopmentThedevelopmentofconceptsofrightandwrong,goodandbad,and
formationof
ideals(Laplanche&Pontalis,1973WalrondSkinner,1986)
ObjectrelationsInteractionwithimportantotherswhomayormaynotshowconsiderationfor
thegrowing
child(Winnicott,1965).
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JeanPiaget(1962)haspointedoutthatchildrensfirstsenseofresponsibilityistothe
dictatesoftheirparents,thatis,whatparentsdeclaretoberightorwrong,goodorbad,or
importantormeaningful.Theseperspectiveschangeaschildrengetolderandcomeincontact
withotherchildrenandadultsoutsidethefamilycircle.Whileextrafamilialexperiencesmay
enlargevistas,theymayalsocreateconflictandconfusioniftheseexperiencesdeviatetoo
muchfromthosethatthechildrenhavelearnedtoexpect.Clinicianswithgroupdynamic
trainingandexperience,whohavethesupportoftheschooladministrator,areinanexcellent
positiontoworkdynamicallywithschoolpersonneltohelpencourageagrowingsenseof
responsibilityinthestudents.
TRANSFERENCEANDCOUNTERTRANSFERNECE
TransferenceisaphenomenonthathasbeennotedbyFreud(1921/1960)andother
groupandindividualanalystsScheidlinger,1980Spotnitz&Meadow,1976).Thisconcept
shedslightonstudentssandteachersreactionstonewschoolsorclasses,strangenew
teachers,students,administrators,andsoon.Inordertocopewithnewnessandstrangeness,
eachpupilorteacherwouldunconsciouslylookforcharacteristicsofimportantpeopleor
familiarsettings.Withoutconsciousrecognition,theywouldtrytoprovokeothersintobehaving
likeimportant,familiarothers,evenwhensuchbehaviorwouldnotbeappropriate.
Inschools,countertransference,thecompanionoftransference,representsthe
teachersemotionalreactionstothechildreninherclassandtotheclassasawhole.Although
Freudwouldhaveconsideredpersonalreactionstobeneuroticandwouldhaveurgedthe
teachertoseektreatment,abroaderapproachwouldviewcountertransferenceasthetotal
emotionalreactionoftheteachertohisorherstudents,teachingenvironment,andtheclassasa
whole(FrommReichman,1950Racker,1957Spotnitz&Meadow,1976Winnicott,1965).
Duringasessionofastressworkshopledbythewriter,ahostileargumenteruptedinwhichone
teacheraccusedthegroupofpickingonher.Aheateddiscussionfollowedinwhichthegroup
expressedannoyancebecausethismemberalwaysmadeherselfseemsuperiortothem.The
teacheracknowledgedthatratherthanfeelingsuperior,shefeltinsecure,andwastryingto
concealthatfeelingfromthegroup.Shereallywantedtobeaccepted.Theclimateofthegroup
changedandmorememberswereabletoacknowledgetheirinsecurities.Asthesessionended,
thegroupconcludedthatwhattheyhadlearnedinthissessionaboutinsecurityand
defensivenesscouldalsobeutilizedintheirownclasseswheretheyweretheleaders.They
realizedtheirimportanceinthesocialandemotionaloftheirstudents.
Inshort,groupandindividualprocessesoperateallthetime,bothinanoutofthe
classroomsetting.Theseprocesseshavealastingeffectonchildrensabilitytolearn,socially,
emotionally,andintellectually(Bany&Johnson,1964).Bothprocessesaretheeffectofpast
experiencesandfeelingstowardnewexperiences(Ursano,Sonnenberg,&Lazar,1991).No
personisexemptfrompsychodynamicprocessesengenderedbypreviousexperiencesthathave
broughtbackfearassociatedwithlifethreateningdisastersorongoingemotionaltraumassuch
assexualabuse.Anexampleofofunresolvedconflictoccurredinateachersstressworkshop
(Slavin,1996).Thememberswereengagedinaparadoxicaldebateabouteating.Whenoneeats
whatonelikes,oneissinful,butnottohaveeatenwhatonelikesisdepriving.Themembers
felttheywereinadilemmatheycouldnotwin.Theywereabletorealizethatintheirclasses
theymaybesettingrulesthatmaketheirstudentsfeeltheyareinnowinsituations.This
realizationgavethemtheopportunitytodeveloppositiveclassroomstrategiesleadingtoasafer
holdingenvironment.
THESCHOOLANDCLASSROOMASHOLDINGENVIRONMENTS
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Winnicott(1965)symbolizedtheholdingenvironmentasthemotherwhoactsasa
holderforthosefeelingsthatthreatentooverwhelmtheimmaturebaby.Ifthemotherprovides
adequateprotection,thechildfeelssafeandisgraduallyabletotakebackandmasterhisorher
difficultfeelings.Similarly,theholdingenvironmentisimportanttothewellbeingofallschool
staff,aswellasthatofthestudents.
Withineducationalsettings,itistheschooladministratorwhocarriesthe
responsibilityofsettingparametersfortheholdingenvironmentoftheschool.YalofandLubin
(1991)haveaptlynotedthat:
Theeducationalenvironmentaffectsthespiritiftheteacher,andthequalityofstudentexperience.Inthe
bestoftimes,theteacherfeelswantedby,committedto,andenthusiastichisorherown[school].The
resultofthispositiveattachmentisabeneficialcycle,inwhichapositivefeedbackloopoperatesamong
administration,faculty,andstudents.Ifontheotherhand,theteacherfeelsjeopardizedorfrightenedby
theperceptionof[weakness],thenpositivefeelingswane,tothedetrimentofall[p.58].

ThewriteralsoagreeswithYalofandLubinthat:
Themannerinwhichschooladministratorsthink,feel,andrespondtoprogrammaticconcernsrepresents
powerfulcommunicationsnotonlyabouttheircapacitytolead,butalsoabouttheirperceptions,the
program,itsparticipants,andthetasks[p.229].

Ithasbeenthewritersimpressionthatwhentheadministrationhasbeenperceivedasnon
supportive,staffmoraleislow,andacademicachievementremainslow.Whenthe
administrationisperceivedassupportive,moraleishigher,andstudentsareapttobehigher
achievers.Thewriterwasabletoformadynamicstressworkshopforteacherswithinan
elementaryschoolbecausetheprincipalfavoredtheuseofgroupdynamicsinordertoimprove
thementalhealthofherstaff(Slavin,1996,1997).Inthisworkshopteacherswereabletowork
throughproblemssuchasnowinsituationscreatedbyconfusingrules,andtheusetheir
insightsintheclass.Theywerealsoabletodevelopresponsivenesstotheemotionalneedsif
theirclass.
Theimportanceoftheholdingenvironmentaswellastheimportanceofthegroup
dynamicadministrativeleadershipalsoderivesfromtheworkofBionandRickman(Harrison,
2000)duringtheNorthfieldexperiments.Theyreconfiguredtherelationshipbetweenpatients
andphysiciantooneofmutualendeavor,sothatthepatientstookpartintheirownrecovery.
Theemphasiswasonadjustmentratherthanillness.Thetaskstobeachievedwere:operating
effectivelyinasocialenvironment,carryingouttheirresponsibilities,andsharingcomradeship.
Theyobservedthatthepowerofthegroupresidedinthehereandnowexperiencesofthe
participants.Thustheindividualwasabletoexploretheimpactofhisbehavioronothersand
modifyhisrelationshipstomakeimprovements.Itwasexpectedthat,oncethepatientshada
sayinwhatwashappeningtothem,theywouldbegintotakechargeoftheirlives.Once
teachersbegintofeeltheyunderstandandhaveasayinwhatishappening,theytoowillbeable
toexertmorepositiveleadershipwiththeirstudents.Withsomemodifications,dependingon
theagesandmaturationallevelofthechildrenandthecurriculumtobefollowed,these
principlescouldbeusedwithchildreninclassroomsettings.Thewriteragainemphasizesthatit
istheclassroomteacherwhohasthemostimportantroleinsettingtheemotionalclimateforthe
class.
VALUABLETHERAPEUTICFACTORS
Yalom(1995)offerssometherapeuticfactorsthatwouldbeofgreatvaluetoboth
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teachersandstudentsiftheywereactualizedinandoutofclassroomsettings.Theyinclude:
InstallationofhopeTeachersshoulddowhatevertheycantoincreasetheirstudentsbeliefand
confidenceinthemselvesandinthehelpandsupporttheywillgetfromfellowstudents
ImpartingandsharinginformationThisincreasesthehorizonsofthestudentsandtheteacher.
Newinformationmaynothavemeaningrightaway,butmaybecomesignificantatsomeother
time
AltruismManystudents,becauseofpreviousexperiencesmayfeeltheyhavenothingtooffer
others.Or,theymaybesoneedythattheyhaveaconstantneedtobefedortakencareof.
Withintheclassroom,theycanbeencouragedtobelievethattheyhavesomethingtooffer
others,andthattheywillreceivesomethingvaluableinreturn.
DevelopmentofsocializingtechniquesInthecourseoftheterm,studentswilllearnwhich
behaviorsencourageharmoniousinteractionandwhichbehaviorscausefriction.
ImitativebehaviorStudentswillimitatethebehaviorsorattitudesofsomeonetheyadmireor
respect,soitisimportanttoemphasizerespectforeachotherinclassroomsettings.
Bion(1959)alsoofferssomevaluablesuggestionsthatcouldbeadaptedtoschool
settings.Amongthemarethefollowingthathavebeenextrapolatedforuseinclasssettings.
1. Helpingtheclassdevelopacommonpurpose.
2. Helpingmembersoftheclassdevelopselfimageandsetboundariesbetweenonesself
andothers.
3. Helpingclassmembersbecomemorecomfortablewitheachother,
4. Recognizingthevalueofthecontributionsofeachclassmember.
5. Helpingeachclassmemberdevelopthecapacitytofacediscontentandcopewithitinthe
classroom.
GROUPDYNAMICSINCLASSROOMS
Childrenandteachersdonothavemuchcontroloverhowmanystudentsareina
classorwherestudentswillbepaced.Clusterteachersareassignedanassortmentofgrades,
severalofwhichtheymaynotwanttoteach.Childrenmaybeseparatedfromfriends.These
conditionsmaymakethemfeelunhappyandfrustrated.Addtothistheirpersonalideasabout
authorityfigures,individualneeds,mandatedassignments,andpersonalexpectations.Under
thesecircumstances,classcooperationandcohesionaredifficultgoalstoachieve.Following
areseveralexamplesofclassroomdynamics.Inonecasetheholdingenvironmentwas
destroyed.Intheother,theholdingenvironmentwasrestored.
Mrs.B.,aclusterteacher,metherclassforthefirsttime,Shesmiled,introducedherself,andproceededtogiveher
classfiverulesofbehavior,oneaftertheother.Shefrequentlypausedinthelessontoinformherclassinavery
strictmanner,Youarebreakingrule1,rule5,rule4,etc..Thiscontinuedforabout15minutes.Duringthistime
sheceasedteachingherlesson.Thechildrenwerebecomingmoreandmorerestlessandmorefrequentinfractions
tookplace.Shefinallyfocusedonasingingactivity.Insteadofinvolvingthewholeclass,sherequestedthatan
individualchildsingsolo.Theindividualchildfeltuncomfortableandselfconscious,andtheentireclasswas
nowjumpingoutoftheirseats,yellingandstrikingoutateachother.Mrs.B.thenberatedthechildrenandcalled
themabadclass.Shehadlostcontrolandfeltphysicallyandemotionallydrained.Whenthewriter,hermentor
suggestedthatshetrytotalktothemmorequietlyandavoidpunishmentasameansofdiscipline,shecomplained
thatthementordidnotunderstandher.
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Thereareobviouslymanydynamicforcesatwork.Somehavetodowithappropriate
classroommanagementthatshouldbeappliednotforpunishment,butforprovidingastable,
safeenvironmentwithspecificparameters,inordertomotivateandkeeptheattentionofthe
students.Anotherhadtodowiththeteacherspersonalconflictregardingdisciplineand
punishment,andstillanotherinvolvesthewillingnessandabilitytodevelopbasictrustand
respectwithintheclasssetting.Bothteacherandstudentswouldbenefitfromprogramsthat
encouragedgroupdynamicsthatfosterpositiveinteractionandcohesion.
Inanothersituation,thewriterwashavingaconferencewithanotherintern.Thedoortotheroomsuddenly
opened,and8childrenwerecommandedbytheirteachertoentertheroom.Theirteacherloudlyexclaimedthat
theywereveryrudeanddisrespectful.Shethenlefttheroom.Theinternimmediatelyattemptedtoteachthema
lessonandwasmetwithverystrongresistance.Onechilddidnothaveapencil,anotherdidnotwanttodothe
lesson,,otherssaidtheydidnotunderstand.Finallytheteachersaid,O.K.guys,whathappened?Atfirstthe
studentstalkedangrily,allatonce.Theinternquietlyencouragedthemtotalkoneatatime.Hecouldseethat
theyhadatoughtime,butremainedneutralasfarasblame.Hethenaskediftheywerereadytogoonwiththe
lesson.Theyagreed,andworkeduntiltheirteachercameforthem.Whentheincidentwasdiscussed,theintern
saidhewasinconflict.Hedidnotwanttoappeartobeonthestudentssidebecausethisexperiencedteacher
wouldturnagainsthim.Atthesametime,hehadtodosomethingtoalleviatethetension.Fortunately,hehadthe
egostrengthtousethecorrectstrategy.

DYNAMICSTRATEGIESFORGROWTHANDDEVELOPMENT
Despitethechallengesandresistancestobeovercome,therehavebeenmanygroup
strategiesthathavebeensuccessfullyutilizedwithinschoolsettings.Someofthemare
describedbelow.
CraigStevens(1998)aschoolpsychologistataprivateschoolinPhiladelphia,
developedamodelforchildrenfromfirsttosixthgradescalledFeedback.Thisexerciseis
designedtoencouragechildrenandteacherstoofferconstructiveideas,feelings,andcriticisms.
Eachchildisofferedtheopportunitytoaskaquestionorofferacommenttoanotherchild.The
childaddressedhastherighttorefuse.Inthatcase,thefirstchildwithholdscommentandthe
proceduremovestothenextchild.Thechildrenlearntoaskquestionsormakecommentsina
noncombativeway.Themodelhelpschildrenbecomemoreverballyexpressive,more
responsiblefortheirwordsandactions,andmoresensitivetothefeelingsofothers.The
sessionstakeplaceonceortwiceaweek,andlastfor15or20minutes,thusrespectingthetime
limitationsofaschooldayprogram.
AsimilarmodelwasdevelopedbyLewisandMaccarone(1997).Thesesocial
workersdescribedashorttermclassroomgroupthatran15sessions.Thegroupwascreatedto
helpfirstgraderslearnteambuildingandcooperation,respectforothersevenifdisagreeing
withthem,andproblemsolvingandangermanagementtechniques.Thegroupwasconsidered
successful,particularlyforthefacilitators,inthattheylearned:1)toalterpatternsofinteracting
tosuittheneedsofthechildren2)torequirethechildrensinputandparticipationinorderto
understandthegroupsabilitytoprocessinformation3)torecognizetheclassaspartofa
largersystem,thelargersystemoftenhavingagreateffectonthedynamicsoftheclassand4)
toinvolvetheclassroomteacherasaconsultant
Thewriter,aschoolpsychologist,ledastressworkshopforteachersinanelementary
schoolintheBronx,N.Y.Theworkshopranforfiveyears,terminatingwhenthewriterleftthe
school.Thegroupmetona50minutelunchperiod,onceperweek.Twoofthepositiveresults
ofthisworkshopwereamorepositiveinteractionbetweentheteachersandtheirstudentsanda
greatertrustlevelbetweenteachers,socialworker,andeducationalevaluator,andschool
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psychologist,allofwhoweremembersofthisdiversegroup.Theyrecognizedthesimilarityof
goalsamongtheprofessions.Theyalsodevelopedanunderstandingofthejuxtaposition
betweenleadingandfollowing.Intheclassrooms,theyweretheleaders,inthegroupthewriter
wastheleader.Andintheschoolwewereallsubordinatetotheleadershipoftheprincipal
(Slavin,1996).
Finally,Glasser(1992)hasformulatedaprogramapplicabletoadministration,staff,
andstudents.Hebelievesschoolpersonnelshouldstartconvincingstudentstoworkhard
becausethereisaqualitybothinwhattheyareaskedtolearnandthemethodsutilizedfor
learning.Hestronglybelieves,asdoothercliniciansutilizingaagrouptherapyapproach,thatif
westartteachingstudentsinawaythatsatisfiestheirsocialandemotionalneedsstudentswill
findmoresatisfactionindoingwellinschool.ThewriterseesGlassersmessageas
emphasizingthattheteaching/learningprocessisaninteractioninwhichbothprotagonists,the
teachersandthelearners,canbewinners.
SUMMARY
Thisarticlewaswrittentoillustratesomeimportantusesofgrouptherapyconcepts
andstrategiesinordertounderstandclassroomdynamicsandtodevelopmethodologythat
wouldamelioratedifficultiesthatarisewithintheclassroom.
Groupdynamictheoryenhancestheunderstandingofdynamicsinclassrooms
becauseitservesseveralfunctions.Oneofthemisthatitoperatesasanorganizingfunctionfor
unrelatedactivitythatcanbemoremeaningfullyrelatedbyadoptingatheoreticalposition.
Groupdynamictheoryalsooperatesasanintegrativefunctioninwhichinconsistenciescanbe
explained.Finally,groupdynamictheoryservesasafoundationforclarifyingandorganizing
existingdatawhichotherwisewouldhavenomeaning(Sugarman&Kanner,2000).
Healthgroupdynamicstrategiesandtheoreticalconstructsalsoservethefunctionof
allowingteacherstounderstandthatboththeyandtheirstudentsmayberesonatingtosimilar
anxieties,thusallowingforthedevelopmentofcooperativeeffortstoalleviatetheseanxieties
ratherthantakingonanadversarialrolewitheachother.Itisthroughtheresolutionofconflict
thatteacherswilldemonstratetheirmostcapableleadershipqualities.
Itisthroughthetactfulteaching,administration,andapplicationofgroupdynamicsin
allitsaspectsthatprofessionalstrainedasgrouptherapistswillbeabletohelpschoolstaffand
studentbodyadoptamorepositivewaytoliveandworktogetherinharmony.
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