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11            Group work - practice recommendations


Some points about conducting group sessions.


            Exercises will not follow this section.  Your knowledge of this area will almost certainly be demonstrated within your assessed sessions.


          Have a start, middle and an end.  As with Egan’s 3 stage model of guidance interviewing, this means an introduction, exploration and conclusion.





            Do not skimp on this part of your session. 


          Ensure that participants know and agree with the aims of the session. Failing to understand the point of it, or considering the aims irrelevant or at the wrong level, are major de-motivators.  When necessary, agree ground rules; this would be particularly important, for example, in a session relating to personal problems, where the confidentiality of other participants should be paramount as an issue.


          Try to pitch the session at the right level. This should be according to levels of education, experience of the topic being dealt with and, where relevant, age and other factors.  If possible, gear to the particular group when you prepare for the session.  Fine-tune your session by discussing participants’ current knowledge in your introduction; if you knew nothing of the make-up of the group, this may be a crucial stage of the session.





          Pacing and sequencing information.  However effervescent and informative you are, it is possible to ‘lose’ members of the group.  Apart from irrelevance, monotony or sameness is a problem.  Just listening to you talking, for example, or conducting just one group activity for the whole session, would have this effect. 


          Break up ‘talking to’ with discussion of the points made. You then know if participants understand what has been discussed.  You are also changing the pace; rapid flow of information by itself often means transfer from you to the students’ notebooks - if you’re lucky - without any time spent in their heads!


          You may vary the activities.  Maybe follow ‘talking to’ with group  or individual exercises.  Apart from keeping people interested, this improves learning. Participants are then being exercised rather than just passively learning; the rehearsal of skills or knowledge, along with variation in learning methods, are proven ways of deepening learning.


          If the session really does require a didactic approach, i.e. you have a lot of information to impart quickly and must merely impose it on your group, then at least think how you can pace it effectively for maximum effect.  Consider varying the media: speech, handouts (especially for  vital information), overhead projector slides.  If some of it is humorous, this may help to sugar the pill (make sure it is funny and also inoffensive).  Where possible, try to ascertain understanding to some extent as you go.





          Sometimes, the middle part of your session - usually the longest - may cover a lot of issues.  Use the conclusion to sum up; without this, your people may go away with the wrong idea of what the discussion was all about.  Prioritise rather than mention everything all over again. 


          Deal with questions.  If there are none, ask questions of the participants; this should impress on their minds any lessons to be drawn from the session and may uncover issues to be discussed in future sessions.


          Apart from reviewing the session, you may also use this time to evaluate the usefulness of the session.  If the session is not seen as relevant or pitched at the right level, use the criticism to do better next time.


          Where appropriate, refer to further and/or alternative sources of information.  E.g. written resources, relevant counselling, guidance or advice services, etc.





          This varies according to organisations and individuals.  A basic lesson plan should include, however, objectives (which should be ‘SMART’; see self-development section for details); ordered activities (preferably with estimates of duration) and the facilities which you intend to use.


          If a series of sessions is planned, a scheme of work is also recommended.  If new to this sort of thing, you may find any book on teaching methods helpful.


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