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Cumulative Assignments A Paper in 6 Parts. Bev Behar University of Guelph Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference May 17, 2005. Introduction.

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Cumulative assignments a paper in 6 parts l.jpg

Cumulative AssignmentsA Paper in 6 Parts

Bev Behar

University of Guelph

Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference

May 17, 2005

Introduction l.jpg

  • This presentation outlines how the major assignment for Theories and Methods of Family Therapy 1 evolved over the last nine years into a six part paper.

    • Goals for each version of the assignment

    • Changes made

    • The intent of each alteration

    • The effects of the changes

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Theories and Methods of Family Therapy: A Challenge in Diversity

  • Offered by U of Guelph School of Open Learning

  • Taught at the Masters Level

  • Usually taken by post-masters degree therapists wanting to specialize in Marriage and Family Therapy

  • Most students want certificate in MFT or membership in American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, which is extremely rigorous

  • Some students take the course to explore their interest or abilities in Family Therapy, a field which is foreign to them


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Original Paper: 1996 Diversity

A 6-8 page paper exploring your own family system (family of origin, nuclear family etc.). Worth 50% of final grade

  • Draw a genogram and an ecomap which chart your family system.

  • Identify major themes, patterns, losses, alliances, rituals, triangles, myths, etc.

  • Using the theoretical concepts discussed during this course apply them to how you perceive your own position, function, or role within your family. Look at relevant ethnic and gender issues, and life cycle issues.

  • You may choose to weave a relevant narrative or look at modes of therapy that might be appropriate if problems have or might occur.

  • Alternatively, you may choose another family that you know well, such as one you are working with in your clinical practice.

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Sample Genogram Diversity

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Goals for 1996 Assignment Diversity

  • Measure the student’s ability to construct a genogram and an ecomap

  • Measure the student’s understanding of family therapy concepts learned in class

  • Give students insight into their own background and how it has affected who they are – IF THEY CHOSE TO USE THEIR OWN FAMILY – and measure their ability to analyse it.

  • Measure the student’s ability to apply a narrative to a family context – IF THE STUDENT DECIDES TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION

  • Measure the student’s ability to apply modes of family therapy as learned in class – IF THE STUDENT DECIDES TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION

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New Version 1998-9 Diversity

  • Paper lengthened to 10-12 pages

    • Rationale: The paper really warranted more focus and detail

  • Students were still given the option of using a family other than their own

    • Rationale: Doubts about being too intrusive with students, though the value of doing one’s own family analysis was seen as superlative

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Course continues to be offered Diversitybut I don’t teach it for another 3 years

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2000-2003: Various Instructors Diversity

  • 2003 Version: Differences from 1999 version

    • A Case is to be presented with a genogram, assessment and interventions

    • No use of student’s own family

    • No ecomap

    • Student is required to apply two techniques from one model of therapy studied in the course

    • The application of the techniques is to be described by the student

    • The techniques used are to be evaluated by the student

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2004 My Return DiversityNext Iteration

  • Based mainly on 1999 assignment with some synthesis from 2003 version

    • Students use own family unless given special permission

    • Paper lengthened to 15-20 pages

    • A hypothetical situation should be presented, which could create instability and a need for outside help on the part of an individual or sector of the family sphere.

    • Why the situation is problematic (in systemic terms) and not solving itself should be outlined.

    • An intervention that might alleviate the problems should be described, outlining the theoretical frameworks, tools and considerations that comprise the effective involvement of the therapist – with references.

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Summary of 2004 Version Diversity

  • Personal - Student’s Own Family unless special permission granted to do another

  • Family Analysis with genogram and ecomap

  • Problem situation hypothesized

  • Therapeutic plan presented

  • References used

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Rationale and Concerns for 2004 Changes Diversity

  • Family Therapists need to understand themselves before trying to do therapy with others.

  • Family Therapists need to know how it feels to be a client, and how the tools feel when used on them.

  • Family Therapists need to have a good sense of what works where and what doesn’t.


  • Analyzing one’s family can be emotional, and requires support

  • This paper is huge!

  • Are the students up to it?

  • How can I guide them through this assignment to use it as a teaching/learning experience as well as an evaluative tool?

    (Guelph Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference 2004)

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2005: Further Refinement Diversity

  • How to give students practice in interviewing and using the genogram tool? AND

  • How to give students the experience of being helped through a personal family analysis?

    • Students are divided into dyads and tryads to interview each other for the paper

  • How to provide support and personal guidance to students?

    • Students in dyads and tryads give each other guidance on the assignment

    • Time is provided in class to work on the assignments

    • Students have a chance to consult with instructor throughout the course

  • How to provide academic guidance to the students throughout the course?

    • Paper divided into 5 parts, due consecutively, with feedback given before the next paper is due

  • How to facilitate student achievement of demanding assignment

    • Ecomap assignment dropped

    • Small consecutive papers ensure that students are keeping up with the assignment

    • Time provided in class for working on assignment

    • Peer support through dyads/tryads provided

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The 2005 Assignment Diversity

  • Genogram of three or more generations of own family plus a chronology, including first names, birth dates, dates of deaths, marriages, divorces, migrations/immigrations, and country or area of residence. Due date: February 22, 2005. Worth: 15%

  • Add to the genogram and chronology cultural issues, gender issues, and life cycle issues. Highlight current stages of significance. Highlight events that had a significant effect on the family. Add historical context issues.Due date: March 1, 2005. Worth: 15%

  • Outline family themes, patterns, alliances, rituals, triangles, and myths in a particular time period, and outline changes over time. Analyse your role and that of significant others within the family, again noting changes over time.Due date: March 22, 2005. Worth: 15%

  • Outline a real or fictitious problem that would bring some part of the family in for treatment. Define the problem and the context and background to it. Outline why the situation is problematic and not solving itself (in systemic terms).Due date: March 29, 2005. Length: 2 pages Worth: 15%

  • Describe interventions that might alleviate the problems, outlining theoretical frameworks, tools, and considerations that comprise the effective involvement of the therapist. Use proper references.Due date: April 19, 2005. Length: 3 pages plus references. Worth: 15%

  • Journal of the experience of working on this assignment, including comments on the involvement of the dyad partner in terms of what worked well and what didn’t to assist the process.Due date: April 19, 2005. Length: As you wish. Worth: 15%

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Assignment 6: The Journal Diversity

  • Functions of the Journal

    • To underline the importance of the emotional impact and visceral experience of the exercise – as it would be for any client

    • To compel the students to be introspective about the experience of doing the exercise

    • To measure the student’s ability to delve deeply into their experience

    • To measure the student’s ability to articulate the experience of doing the assignment

    • To get detailed feedback about the assignment from the students

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Instructor Feedback on the Assignment Diversity

  • Greater awareness of how frequently students don’t understand what I’m wanting from an assignment

  • Good to be able to redirect them – but this also creates more work for the instructor

  • Nice to see the students assisting each other in their dyads/tryads

  • Good to see that students were having an emotional experience that will very likely profoundly affect their ability to be a good therapist

  • Since the 4th assignment was due at the last class, the feedback from it had to be emailed or phoned to the students, otherwise they would not have benefited from it for their 5th assignment. This was a lot of extra work.

  • The format of the course lends itself well to a mentorship orientation to teaching.

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Anonymous Feedback from Students Diversity

  • Was there clear communication of expectations?

  • 7 Excellent 3 Good 1 Fair 1 between fair and poor 1 Poor

  • I liked the assignment being broken down in smaller parts.

  • The assignment design was an excellent way to develop understanding of systems perspective of family therapy.

  • Assignments were well structured & the fact that they were broken into smaller pieces really

  • helped.

  • The structure of the assignments was also helpful since each part built on

  • the other and the instructor offered ongoing feedback.

  • Class assignments were unclear. Re: small assignments: These assignments would have contributed to a more positive learning experience, if I had received immediate feedback - or prior to completing the next assignment.

  • Not sufficient time for dyad process.

  • Working in dyads was not helpful given the nature of the assignment since preparing the genogram and other assignments were related to “my” family.

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Special Feedback from One Journal Diversity

  • “DYAD DISCUSSION: Entering into a contract and signing a contract (Feb8, 05) with a dyad partner created in me a sense of commitment to the learning process. We were from two different cultural, ethnic, language background. It was a rewarding experience... It fitted in well for my style of learning. My partner was able to point out certain issues that I was not paying attention to and vice versa. Maybe because of my background and experience I was able to share and get the feed back. We were able to keep in touch through e-mail till the end of our last assignment (April 17th). Giving the feedback and receiving the feedback helped me to deepen the process. ‘Two heads are better than one,’ proves true in my case. I will make use of this model in my future work.

  • “ASSIGNMENTS: Assignments were helpful to carry through the learning experience. It was a great learning tool. It is like climbing by taking steps very consciously. It helped me to assimilate and internalize the information better. In the beginning I was skeptical of the method but by the second class I was able to get into the process. In doing the genogram I took a lot of interest in collecting information and made a couple of phone calls to my home country. I took my own family genogram into supervision to work through my own issues. Assignments 4 and 5 were challenging to process.

  • “CONCLUSION: This process has been very experiential and it made me bring about change in my own thought process as well as in my attitude towards my family members. It was a good experience to grow in self- awareness as I learned from these resources. As the course helped me to listen to my own family story, it certainly increased my capacity to listen to the stories of others in a life-giving way.”

For a copy of the powerpoint presentation email bevbehar@rogers com l.jpg

For a copy of the PowerPoint Presentation email [email protected]

I Welcome Your Feedback!Thank-you