Social Psychology Tutorial Philosophy & Method
Draft 2 - 18/7/05

Overview of the Tutorial Group Work Process

  • The design and methodology of the 10 x 2 hour tutorials is primarily experiential rather than didactic.  This approach arguably differs from the way university tutorials are traditionally conducted  The underlying goal is to engage in rich, authentic, meaningful group experiences which enhance personal and collective understanding of social psychological principles and phenomena.
  • Precisely what is meant by this goal is open to interpretation and dialogue and it cannot happen simply by delivering content "X" without also paying close attention to group members' feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.  In this sense, there are two key sources of primary learning material in tutorials: a) Content "X" (i.e., the topic and material presented) and b) the reactions, cognitions, emotions, and behaviours which students have in response to Content "X" and the ways in which group members respond.  Group exercises, videos, and discussions will take place with the goal of conveying useful academic content, but also a means for  individual and group exploration of real social psychological phenomena, i.e., social psychology in action.
  • In case this is too waffly, consider that at least 50% of the tutorial focus should be examining reactions, responses, processes and dynamics that are occuring within the group, and about 50% of the focus should be on studying and examining the abstract., objective, academic knowledge/information.
  • This philosophical and practical method of group work consciously draws from the group work principles developed during the late 1940's through to the early 1970's (and still occurring to some extent currently) with T-groups, Marathon Groups, and the Tavistock Model, based on Bion's theory.  According to Bion, a group has set a conscious tasks, but it also has a set of unconscious urges, feelings, and cognitions which drive irrational contributions.  In group work, it is possible to allow the unconscious aspects of groups to be brought forward, discussed and worked through, leading potentially to a group which is more able to function more freely and openly.  Not all groups succeed in gradually revealing and processing their unconscious life, so we will see what happens in reality.
  • The facilitator in this approach is considered to be a group member who is caste in the role of guiding the process, but this role should be seen as fluid since this role can wax and wane such that others may also guide discussions and interactions.
  • Ten percent of the course assessment is allocated to the degree of student "engagement and contribution" to the tutorial and bulletin board experiences.  In the first tutorial, a group contract (mutual understanding) will be established to determine what the marking criteria.