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Creative Group Work on the Campus: A Developmental Study of Certain Aspects of Student Life

by Louise Price - 1942

The purpose of this study has been to examine the processes and products of social groups in the area of extra-class activities on two campuses in an endeavor to discover the possibilities in creative group work for national adaptation in community situations as a means of influencing individual development, which includes social development.

SOCIAL groups are the end results of the forces which produce them.1 The explanation of the nature and significance of groups must be sought in their inherent processes or functions, for their essential relationships can be determined only on that basis. This is particularly true of their evolution, which is primarily a matter of socio-genetics—even though the visible evidence is recorded in their structure. Because this is true, the characteristics of communities and societies are to be found in a study of what they do; their actions or behavior furnish the interpretation of what they are.

The purpose of this study has been to examine the processes and products of social groups in the area of extra-class activities on two campuses in an endeavor to discover the possibilities in creative group work for national adaptation in community situations as a means of influencing individual development, which includes social development.

The study is divided into three parts. Part I presents examples of developments in creative group work in the larger culture and certain theoretical considerations in philosophy and social psychology which underlie the operation of group work in student life. Although there has been no attempt to present extensive examples or an exhaustive analysis of theory, enough is included to serve as a setting for a study of the significance and techniques of creative group work with college and university students.

Part II is concerned with the presentation of empirical data gathered by the investigator in two detailed developmental studies, made at Stephens College and Stanford University, in which she attempted three things:

1. To trace briefly the developmental history of the informal group activities of students during a period of years at both institutions and to indicate certain shifts in educational theory, economic setting, and personnel which have influenced developments in student life on these campuses.

2. To drive an analysis of the institutional situation at Stephens down to the level of the individual interests and needs of the students actually resident on the campus by securing statements from the faculty regarding student problems from their point of view and of their own problems in relation to advising students; and to illustrate some of the ways in which these statements were used later in making changes in the environment.

3. To analyze the processes of certain leadership groups at Stanford for evidences of: democratic attitudes and modes of behavior, sequence in the processes, and intelligent cooperative action between the students and the faculty in making desirable changes in the environment.

Part III of the study is concerned with a re-examination of the examples and the theory set forth in Part I in the light of the processes and procedures described in Part II.


Official documentary sources of data were examined and developments were charted by intervals of five years in both institutions; these data were supplemented by illustrative material taken from statements of students and faculty at Stephens regarding student problems and the problems of faculty related to student advising; problems found in the statements were checked for frequency of occurrence by questionnaire. At Stanford, verbatim records were made of several groups in action. Other data not available in official documents were taken from verbatim records of seven panel discussions on problems of students and the operation of student life. Interviews and correspondence also supplemented data.


Stephens College. The developmental history of student life at Stephens revealed extensive use of the group thinking process, supported by research.

Procedures used there have remade the curriculum and enlivened the total situation since 1912. The grade system has been abolished. The teaching function has been expanded under the concept of guidance. A decentralized advisory system has been established whereby all teachers have become semi-professional guidance officers who coordinate the central guidance program; in addition, 85 teachers in 1939-40 made use of informal situations to gain understanding of students by serving as sponsors to a particular club or organization. An Extra-Class division has emerged as a social adjustment agency—a switchboard for routing help to both students and faculty in the use of informal activities for educational ends. A series of clinics—reading-study, grooming, posture, English usage, health, and so forth—supplement with specialized services the guidance functions of the teaching faculty. Since 1912, a remarkable expansion ranging from 300 per cent to 800 per cent has taken place in certain items such as enrollment, plant, and budget. Special guidance officers have increased from 3 in 1912 to 72 in 1940.

Stanford University. The developmental history of student life at Stanford revealed the influence of administrative policy in student traditions. The process records of student government groups revealed the influence of structure on "two-way communication" and a number of other illustrations of student problems and techniques used in their adjustment. Protocol material from the processes and products of panel discussions illustrates the value of this technique as a means of clarifying and stimulating student and faculty thinking and action.

The final chapter is concerned with some proposals for making student life a more intelligent cooperative venture between students, teachers, and administrators. Final responsibility is placed on administrators for inventing ways to promote faculty growth in order to influence student growth; the role of creative group work on the campus is indicated as adaptation to changing conditions not only (1) to minimize the effects of disequilibriums but (2) to release the "growth potentials" of individual students on the campus and increase the quality of the inculcation of their educational experience. In this the philosophy and techniques of democracy play a major part.

The procedures described in this study yielded a positive result in achieving environmental changes in both situations which have, at times, exceeded their anticipated value. They are believed to have had a positive influence on the individuals involved.

1 By LOUISE PRICE, PH.D. Teachers College, Columbia University. Contributions to Education, No. 830.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 43 Number 5, 1942, p. 404-406
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9114, Date Accessed: 5/27/2022 6:02:54 PM

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