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SOME GROUP PSYCHODYNAMIC ASPECTS IN INTERACTION RELATIONSHIPS AT SCHOOL ISPA 28.7.07 48. Pirjo Sjö School psychologist in the Education Department of Helsinki . THE INTRODUCTION.

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Some group psychodynamic aspects in interaction relationships at school ispa 28 7 07 48 l.jpg

SOME GROUP PSYCHODYNAMIC ASPECTS IN INTERACTION RELATIONSHIPS AT SCHOOL ISPA 28.7.07 48

Pirjo Sjö

School psychologist in the Education Department of Helsinki


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THE INTRODUCTION RELATIONSHIPS

  • The work of a school psychologist has traditionally focused on the problem solving of individual students by means of individual psychological tests

  • The study of Galen Alessi, 1988

  • Everyday observations suggest however that the same student can behave differently in different groups or in different situations

  • Why so ?

  • In this presentation I shall observe some group psychodynamic aspects in interaction relationships at school

  • I shall also describe one process of changing the focus in the work of student wellfare team at school where I also work as school psychologist


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ABOUT GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS RELATIONSHIPS

  • A newborn child has enourmous need and ability to be in contact with other people

  • Ways of being contact vary during one`s lifespan

  • The other as important developmental process is to become more independent

  • One has to refind her/his identity in every group and interaction

    relationships:

    • How one is like others

    • How one is different

    • What is permanent and valuable

  • In the beginning of a group there will always be tension and anxiety:

    • Individuals are ”testing” each others

    • Who are alike and possible alliances and who are not

  • In groups there are always tension between the need to be like the others and between the need to be independent and unique


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SOME BASIC CONCEPTIONS OF GROUP PSYCHODYNAMIC RELATIONSHIPS W.R.BION (1897-1979)

  • A GROUP HAS TWO TASKS:

    • THE PRIMARY TASK

      - the task, why a group has originally been formed

    • THE TASK TO TAKE CARE OF THE WELL-BEING AND SAFETY OF THE MEMBERS OF A GROUP

      - this task is usually invisible, it is mostly unconscious dynamic process in a group

  • In groups there are always dynamics between the primary task and invisible emotional needs

  • There is a tendency to decrease working and falling to a state of basic assumptions,when the primary task is not clear or not accepted and the anxiety in a group increases

  • THE STATES OF BASIC ASSUMTIONS:

    • DEPENDENCY

    • FIGHT AND FLIGHT

    • PAIRING


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  • THE DYNAMICS OF PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION RELATIONSHIPS

    • Very important invisible psychodynamic process of interaction in groups

  • THE VALENCE

    • Individual`s readiness to take a role in the dynamic process of a group


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THE PRIMARY TASK OF THE SCHOOL IS TEACHING AND LEARNING RELATIONSHIPS

This primary task inevitably causes anxiety

In order to be succesful with this primary task, the anxiety must be kept within tolerant limits

THE TASK OF TAKING CARE OF THE WELLBEING AND SAFETY AT SCHOOL

At school there are many diffrent groups which are linking to each others

Some are formal with clear structure, some are informal

During schooldays both students and teachers attend many different groups

This is very demanding

ABOUT THE TASKS OF THE SCHOOL


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  • If the primary task is unclear and the structures don`t properly work,there will be confusion and chaos in groups

  • Then anxiety in groups will increase and permanent roles like spacegoat, being bullied or being left aside may come out

  • In these situations there will be a danger that the problems may be seen caused by one or some individuals

  • Then actions and working is focused on individual students and their missing abilities instead of observing the whole group and it`s psychodynamics

  • Challange of the work of the school psychologist is to try to make these invisible dynamics visible


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SOME ASPECTS IN LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS properly work,there will be confusion and chaos in groups

  • THE LEARNING RELATIONSHIP

    • The meaning of the leadership is most important

    • The good leadership and clear structures can be contained as experiences of a clear target and safety

    • The head is the leader of the school

    • Teachers are leaders of large groups of students

    • It is important that they have also ability to understand dynamics of a group

    • Anxiety reduces at school if there is capacity to create a genuine,respectful and open-minded interaction

    • Confidental, permanent relationships reduce anxiety

    • Turnovers of a teacher or a class may cause feelings of lost which has been experienced earlier in life


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  • There should be time to process turnovers and other important changes at school

  • Ways of managing changes and the feelings which accompany these , and structuring the beginnings and the ends of the day, the week, the terms in school life, can reduce anxiety based on early infantile experiences of separation and change

  • Students can learn to recognise their emotions and to find age-relevant ways to express themselves in everyday life

  • It is possible to get new, correcting emotional experiences in containing learning relationships at school


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  • Both the whole group (school/class) and individuals are important

  • Social spirit will increase by strenghtening the feelings of belonging together and cohesion

  • This can be carried out by all kinds of activities, rituals and celebrations, by remembering the history of a group and by planning future

  • Students are mostly working in large groups at school

  • There may be much creativity in large groups

  • But in large groups the amount of relationships is great, dynamics are strong and there may be feelings of losing control


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  • By dividing a large group into heterogenous smaller ones, the feelings of safety may increase

  • If learning tasks demand everybody participating,it will be difficult to remain an outsider

  • And if a teacher gives varying roles to members of a group, permanent roles can be avoided

  • It depends on a task, which kind of grouping is best

  • Cohesion will increase and interaction relationships will become better, if everybody works with everybody during the school year

  • Then phantasies may decrease


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  • The lifespan of a group the feelings of safety may increase at school should be noticed:

    • In the beginning of a new group there will be anxiety and tension: earlier experiences of relationships and groups may come into the mind

    • Dependency of the leader is great

    • Building the structure is important: tasks,rules,methods and ways by which to be in contact

    • Culture of a group begins to develope

    • In the next stage of the development of a group members want to be seen as individuals

    • Conflicts and resistance are usual

    • Different kinds of cliques may be born

    • There will be many feelings of envy and rivalry


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  • In the next stage the feelings of safety may increase acceptance of others´ ways of being in a group will grow

  • Cohesion will become important

  • Undertaking the primary task will increase

  • The last stageis the ending of the group

  • That can arouse strong feelings of past experiences

  • This stage is very important, because it is the start of new beginnings


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ENVIRONMENT the feelings of safety may increase

  • Individuals are also joining emotionally to physical environment

  • It can support the well-being and safety

  • LEARNING SITUATIONS

  • Students have different styles in learning and different kinds of abilities

  • For many students subjects like art, music,sport and handicraft can give possibilities to express their abilities

  • These subjects also make it possible to develop a person as a whole

  • Naming of things and feelings helps students to find words and conceptions for their experiences and to integrate them

  • Learning situations should be entities: the meaning of the beginnings and endings

  • Many situations include competition and arouse strong feelings: e.g sport lessons should end in relaxing and calming


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  • CO-OPERATION WITH PARENTS the feelings of safety may increase

    • Building the partnership with parents is extremely important

    • School must take an active role

    • Clear structures are needed

    • It will be challange as to closeness and distance


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  • SUPPORT the feelings of safety may increase

    • Children and young students show quite openly their feelings

    • This may arouse into the adults`mind feelings of their own earlier disappointments, shame and unfilled needs

    • Then a need to upbring, teach and ”take the bad away” will increase

    • Adults`capacity to contain is very important

    • At school it can be strenghtened by good leadership, genuine, open-minded interaction and structures both inside a school like teams( e.g student well-being team) and outside a school like e.g supervision


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THE STUDENT WELL-BEING IN THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY the feelings of safety may increase

  • In Helsinki development of the student well-being at schools has continued already for years

  • There are student well-being teams in every school

  • Usually the teams consist of the head, the teacher with special education,the study counselor teacher ,the school nurse, the school social worker and the school psychologist

  • In large schools the team has weekly meetings

  • The Education Department in Helsinki has published a report concerning the development of the student well-being in 2003

  • The report gives general outline when planning the student well-being program in school


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STUDENT WELL-BEING IN THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY the feelings of safety may increase

Student well-being

Principal/Head

Teacher

Special educ. teacher

Studies counsellor

School assistant

Parents

The whole

staff

Parents

SAFETY

IN SCHOOL

TAKING CARE OF CHILDREN IN SCHOOL

STUDENT WELFARE TEAM

Cooperation partners

Social administration

Health service

Parents

SUPPORT AND CARE/THERAPY

School social worker

School psychologist

School nurse

School doctor

Parents

The student well-being services


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THE STUDENT WELLFARE TEAM GHANGES THE FOCUS OF ITS`WORK ON PREVENTION

  • THE DESCRIPTION OF THE SCHOOL AND IT`S STUDENT WELLFARE TEAM

    • This primary school has 400 students

    • There are general classes, seven classes for students with special needs and three international classes for English speaking students in this school

    • The student wellfare team consists of the head, the vice head,two teachers with special education,the school nurse, the school social worker and the school psychologist


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  • The meetings of the student wellfare team (SWT) in 2005: PREVENTION

    • Every class teacher had their meeting with SWT once a year

    • In these meetings they wanted to discuss about the problems of individual students

    • Theachers told about so many problems that there never was enough time

    • The problems were seen as separate from the learning environments of the class and the school

    • Teachers were expecting ”actions” from the SWT

    • They especially expected that the school psychologist would test those students having problems

    • Unability to utilize the special knowhow of the whole SWT and it`s members could be seen

    • Teachers didn`t know exactly what the primary task of the SWT was

    • The work of the SWT focused on individual students and on their problems

    • There was only a little space for preventive work

    • After the meetings the members of SWT (and maybe teachers too) were often very tired and frustrated


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  • The change starts PREVENTION

    • The school psychologists in comprehensive schoolsin Helsinki City formed in 2005 a group with the primary task to understand better the meaning of learning environments

    • One of it`s tasks was to study the work of SWTs and begin this task with conversations with the head

    • The head of this school considers the meaning of the learning environments very important

    • She thought that it was necessary to change the focus of the SWT

    • The whole team wanted to develop the preventive work

    • As the result of these discussions the SWT decided that every member of SWT (except the head)will take more resbonsibility of some classes than the other members, and that she will visit ”her classes” and will discuss with the class teachers before the meeting of SWT during the spring term in 2006


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  • The resistance PREVENTION

    • In the evaluation meeting of the teachers in the end of the spring term 2006 some teachers wanted back the traditional work of SWT

    • They were frustrated in ”reporting” twice of their students; first to one member and then to the whole team

    • In spite of resistance the head wanted to continue and develop the preventive work


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  • The preventive work reinforces PREVENTION

    • In autumn 2006 the SWT discussed much of learning environments

    • The school psychologist made a litteral suggestion for the team; the meaning of which wasto help the discussions with class teachers before the meetings of SWT

    • The school psychologist also made a form to be fullfilled together with teachers before the meetings of SWT

    • The meaning of these discussions and suggestions was to find important aspects conserning learning environments

    • The whole team wanted to continue in this way


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  • The evaluation PREVENTION

    • During 2006-2007 the focus of SWT changed towards learning environments

    • The utilization of the special abilities of every member in SWT increased

    • The group dynamic in SWT changed

    • The role of spacegoats decreased when the classes were observed as entities

    • Beacause the meetings were better structured, the time of the meetings was long enough

    • The SWT got much information of all students and learning environments at school

    • In the evaluation meeting of the school in spring 2007 teachers told that they were satisfied with this kind of working model and were eager to have more discussions with their ”own” member of SWT

    • Some of SWT experienced that they lacked time for these discussions

    • The process goes on…


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