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‘Learning in Groups’ by David Jacques


Learning in Groups,
(3rd edition).
By David Jaques.
Kogan Page, 2000.
Paperback, 310 pages,
ISBN 0 7494 30911 5.

This is a weighty book, both literally and content-wise, that borders between the academic treatise and educational methods, and the practical training guide. It is substantially practical in terms of the more traditional approach to the training course – a practice still carried out in what is probably the majority of training organizations, and will certainly continue as such for some time yet. Consequently this book is a mine of information for the developing educator and trainer who has to work with groups of students/learners.

The target population for the book would appear to be, from the significant academic flavour, to be principally the educator working with groups in higher education, a flavour reflected in the use of student, class and the like.

It has been updated in the light of many new group training practices from its original publication by Croom Helm in 1984 and its second edition published by Kogan Page in 1991, although there is very limited mention of electronic approaches to training and development.

The book is arranged in ten closely printed chapters, each with numerous references to research work (the references are collected at the end of the book with some 250 references listed, many identifying the early sources of models and concepts). Each chapter now ends with exercises and activities based on the text. It is not a book to be read through from page 1 to the end, but to be used as a source of reference for many of the models, concepts, practices and techniques for effective group working.

The first three chapters are concerned substantially with the theory of group operation, group behaviour and learning theory and in line with the more severe academic approach, the work of Kolb is contained in a few lines and that of Honey and Mumford not mentioned at all. Subsequent chapters are concerned more with the practical approaches to group working and include in-depth discussion on such topics as communication, the various approaches to working with and developing groups, assessing and evaluating with groups, and training and development. The last-named chapter contains advice and guidance in the practical running of groups, particularly with the use of exercises and activities, a number of activities being described in detail, eg the classic NASA exercise.

Apart from educators who need to know about and have a range of tools for use with their student groups, I can recommend this work to experienced trainers who wish to go to the sources of their training practices and also those who are following a professional qualification path.

Leslie Rae
October 2000

A wide selection of publications, many at discount prices, are available in the Kogan Page store with the TrainingZONE Mall.


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