A Training-Group, or T-Group, is a type of experience-based learning.
Participants work together in a small group of 8-14 people, over an extended period. Learning comes through analysis of their own experiences, including feelings, reactions, perceptions, and behavior.
Underlying the T-Group are the following assumptions about the nature of the process which distinguish T-Groups from other more traditional models of learning:
- LEARNING RESPONSIBILITY. Each participant is responsible for their own learning. What a person learns depends upon their own style, readiness, and the relationship they develop with other members of the group.
- STAFF ROLE. The staff person's role is to facilitate the examination and understanding of the experience in the group. They help participants to focus on the way the group is working, the style of an individual's participation, or the issues that are facing the group.
- EXPERIENCE and CONCEPTUALIZATION. Most learning is a combination of experience and conceptualization. A major T-Group aim is to provide a setting in which individuals are encouraged to examine their experiences together in enough detail so that valid generalizations can be drawn.
- AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS and LEARNING. A person is most free to learn when they establish authentic relationships with other people and thereby increases their sense of self-esteem and decreases their defensiveness. In authentic relationships people can be open, honest, and direct with one another so that they are communicating what they are actually feeling rather than masking their feelings.
- SKILL ACQUISITION and VALUES. The development of new skills in working with people is maximized as a person examines the basic values underlying the behavior, as they acquire appropriate concepts and theory, and as they can practice new behavior and obtain feedback on the degree to which the behavior produces the intended impact.
Goals and Outcomes
Goals and outcomes of a T-Group can be classified in terms of potential learning concerning individuals, groups, and organizations.
- THE INDIVIDUAL POINT OF VIEW. Most T-Group participants gain a picture of the impact that they make on other group members. A participant can assess the degree to which that impact corresponds with or deviates from their conscious intentions. They can also get a picture of the range of perceptions of any given act. It is important to understand that different people may see the same piece of behavior differently - for example, as supportive or antagonistic, relevant or irrelevant, clear or ambiguous - as it is to understand the impact on any given individual or a specific event.
Many people report that they try out behavior in the T-Group that they have never tried before. This experimentation can enlarge their view of their own potential and competence and provide the basis for continuing experimentation.
- THE GROUP POINT OF VIEW. T-Groups often focus on forces which affect the group, such as the level of commitment and follow-through resulting from different methods of making decisions, the norms controlling the amount of conflict and disagreement that is permitted, and the kinds of data that are gathered. Concepts such as cohesion, power, group maturity, climate, and structure can be examined using the experiences in the group to better understand how much these same forces operate in the back-home situation.
- THE ORGANIZATION POINT OF VIEW. Status, influence, division of labor, and styles of managing conflict are among organizational concepts that may be highlighted by analyzing the events in the T-Group. Subgroups that form can be viewed as analogous to units within an organization. It is then possible to look at the relationships between groups, examining such factors as competitiveness, communications, stereotyping, and understanding.