Carolyn Provenzano, MSSW
Kent School of Social Work
SW 657: Group Methods
Carolyn Provenzano regularly conducts distance learning courses for the Kent School of Social Work. She was also able to use technology to "skype in" and participate in the PT-FLC.
As part of her participation in the PT-FLC, Provenzano designed an assignment she calls "Demonstrating Group Methods Skills." That assignment was intended to integrate skills her students had observed in the field, including their "understanding of group processes and problem solving abilities centering around clients in group therapy," skills they will later draw on to manage a group.
With the class divided into teams, students were assigned to develop a script, which their team would use to role-play a group of clients in group therapy, including roles for the group facilitator and co-facilitator. This assignment asked students to do any necessary research to "bring real world experiences into the role-play," to "establish the therapeutic factors consistent with a normal and well-functioning group," and to "demonstrate various therapeutic techniques for resolving difficult problem behaviors or potential barriers among different clients." Students in this online course met in a live Skype chat to complete this assignment, with each team role-playing one group therapy session lasting between fifty and seventy-five minutes.
Although students approached this assignment with great resistance in the beginning of the semester, they reported that the "Interactive Group Presentation" was a very worthwhile assignment that they will use in their social work practice.
Provenzano noted that her specific efforts to design a learning-centered assignment "developed reciprocity and cooperation among students" and encouraged active learning. She was pleased that "students felt a sense of inclusion and developed a very cohesive group through using technology for this assignment. Students learned how to ‘critically' evaluate their individual performance and the performance of each group member."
Provenzano also experienced the difficulty that instructors sometimes face in implementing a learning-centered approach to their teaching: student resistance. MaryEllen Weimer concludes that students initially resist a learning-centered approach because it places much greater cognitive demands on the student. However, Provenzano's experience assigning an interactive group presentation reinforces Weimer's assurance that most students eventually see the benefits of a learning-centered approach. Provenzano's students came to appreciate that this assignment would benefit them in their future social work practice.