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Chapter Nine: Adolescence and Education

Section 7: T-Groups


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While people at this age are not generally so rebellious as those in early adolescence, their increased self-directedness makes grand scale programming of education less feasible. Nonetheless, certain educational opportunities can be provided that are likely to be effective at this stage. we will look at one such model -- the T-group.



The T-group, or training group, was created by social scientists who wanted to train themselves in group dynamics. Their method was to set up a human relations laboratory in which they were both the experimenters and the objects of the study. The task of the group is to describe the group process.



The T-group became a far more significant tool than expected. As anticipated, it did serve as a vehicle for understanding group dynamics. However, it turned out to be a deeply emotional experience capable of working profound changes upon the participants. One attempt to encapsulate the T-group experience follows:



A participant once asked me, "What is sensitivity training?", and I replied:



You can be where you are and try where you want to be when you want to be there.



You can let yourself become vulnerable without taking a self-destroying risk.



You can trust people in a way you may never have tried before.



You can see that loneliness, hurt, fear, and anger are not your privy alone.



You can reach out and touch people and be touched by people without saying a word.



(Ronald 0. Cohen, 'What is Sensitivity Training?" Training News, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1969, p. 8).



The focus on the here and now heightened the awareness of the participants. The feedback process helped each see oneself and others more clearly. As each became more aware of the effect one had on others, one could look deeper into oneself and determine how one had that effect one more step would lead to an understanding of the reasons why.



The increasing intimacy of the group tends to foster a warm and accepting social atmosphere. This encourages experimentation of new modes of behavior -- some of which might be selected by a participant to replace some of the less satisfying old behaviors. As trust develops, people risk exposing aspects of themselves that even they have trouble accepting. Usually, they discover that the members already share much of what was considered unsharable -- fears of inadequacy, selfish motivations, morbid thoughts, crazy desires, etc.



The more diverse the membership of the group, the richer is the experience for everyone. A multicultural T-group is an excellent vehicle for reaching the common core of human existence. This can provide a profound and expansive self-concept and respect for other people and cultures.



Thus, the T-group can develop one's self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-concept. This stage of intimacy deepens the identity formed in early adolescence. This deepening results in a new level of trust and acceptance and overall individual strength. The new understanding of communication and group dynamics supports system competence.



The T-group is a self-contained educational experience -- its effectiveness depends upon separating the individual from the work-a-day world. A competent society must integrate such education into the marriage, career and leisure experiences of its people. Perhaps the -group will provide ideas and skills for accomplishing this.







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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future


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