EU Supports Applied Group Relations

EU Supports Applied Group Relations

Helping primary and secondary teachers in Lithuanian schools to work effectively with groups.

Helping primary and secondary teachers in Lithuanian schools to work effectively with groups.

This EU-funded project helps schools across Lithuania with poor scores in standardized testing. The aim is to improve teacher impact on student learning outcomes by giving teachers skills in working with class groups and groups generally. Group skills open opportunities to use contemporary teaching practices, for example, peer learning, as an alternative to traditional instruction of individuals sitting in straight rows. Half of the project training time is allocated to pedagogy and half to change management based on Tavistock Group Relations methodology.

The project was proposed and won by public tender by Rūta Gustainiene and Stephen Lee who are both graduates of Tavistock Institute professional development programmes, in particular, the Tavistock Institute’s Group Relations Programme. Rūta and Stephen recently opened a new private elementary school in Vilnius which blends contemporary educational practice with Group Relations methodology.

The Project

EU funding criteria require a new approach to the teaching of mathematics that achieves sustainable improvement over time. The project combines group teaching of mathematics with Group Relations-for-Learning in order to work in groups and to sustain change. The Soviet legacy had firmly entrenched control as pedagogic and political methods in the Lithuanian education system; the new group relations model offers sustained, systemic change possibilities by moving from control to collaboration in teaching and learning.

This project addresses the current impasse in the Lithuanian educational system. Ruta and Stephen see this as an intervention in the national educational culture that primarily focuses on individual teaching/learning.  The Group Relations project addresses teacher, parent and child attitudes, behaviour, roles and leadership and followership dynamics in the classroom, in school and in the national educational context. The programme is structured with 4 training modules (total 8 days) over 6 months, followed by visits to the participants’ schools to support the application of learning and coaching of participants in the second year.

Group Relations methodology offers innovative ways to work with the sometimes anxiety-provoking themes of:

  • being assessed, judged and potentially humiliated or punished in groups (especially when a class is designated as ‘a classroom for naughty kids’)
  • dealing with conflict in the classroom or playground (giving and receiving feedback without offence)
  • individual and group competition in the classroom (the fight to be teacher’s favourite or the better-resourced school)
  • learning-from-experience (dealing with the new and unexpected – including new forms of seating arrangements)
  • changing roles (from being teaching instructors to coaches and mentors of learning – sometimes experienced as a loss of power and control)
  • working with complex multi-groups relationships (in contrast to working only with small separate class groups)
  • taking leadership roles in the school and between schools, exploring and comparing similarities and differences
  • negotiating with the educational authorities as equal partners leading to realistic solutions to pedagogic problems

The program of assisting Lithuanian primary and secondary teachers and head teachers to work in different ways will last for two years, which is regarded as the minimum time needed for addressing different pedagogic and leadership challenges in schools. The use of Tavistock Group Relations methodology is a powerful means of improving everyday learning in school.

Group Relations approaches in education offer a creative transitional space which allows the educational authorities, parents, head teachers and teachers and children to face and deal with feelings and emotions that are often swept under the carpet. It helps to understand the nature of splitting, projection and projective identification in the educational context. The approach allows conflicts surrounding traditional ways of teaching and learning to be explored, which at institutional levels, has not been tried before.

Group Relations methodology applied to schools allows for a profound understanding and exchange of ideas about emotions, relationships and experiences in the classroom environment. Reflective practice and reflective double loop learning are effective tools for improving classroom behaviour, effective for cognitive learning of the curriculum and for personal development of character. The energy derived from group relations learning models in schools, the use of Review as a consistent part of the approach, leads to innovative and creative, happier and more knowledgeable children in Lithuanian society.

For further information please contact:
Dr Mannie Sher, PhD
Principal Researcher & Consultant
The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

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