Forming peer practice groups using a sociometric process
by Ann E. Hale, M.A., TEP
In this example, your training group has seventeen students, and will
be forming peer practice groups during an upcoming training weekend.
The fllowing are some suggestions for ways to accomplish this using a
sociometric process. Criteria are offered which relate to a
variety of issues being considered.
Peer practice groups
Most training groups have people with varying levels of skill.
And, some persons have more experience and are chosen more often to
direct thereby increasing their access to practicing the role of
director. A side benefit of peer practice groups is to increase
the opportunities for all students to have the role and to experience
feedback is a smaller, more contained unit. The group size of
seventeen can be divided in a number of ways: (1) 3 groups of three, 2
of four; (2) 3 groups of four, I group of five; (3) 2 groups of six,
one group of five; (4) 2 group of 5, one group of seven, etc.
Having this flexibility may make it easier to make assignments on the
data collected from the sociometric process.
Peer practice groups offer more opportunities to direct and they also
provide opportunities for the group members to explore personal or work
related issues in a small group. It is important to have the
understanding that bringing issues before the small groups which
involve unfinished business with the larger group or any of its members
is to be discouraged. It helps to have a contract that these
sorts of issues are reported into the whole group when the larger
group reconvenes for its regular training session. Also, the
protagonist agrees to speak directly to any group member about an issue
which came up which involves him/her, sharing the issue and ways the
person was portrayed in action. This reduces the “keeping of secrets” which
can weigh the group down and contribute to devisiveness.
Generating criteria in the group
The actual wording of the criteria can identify some of the variables
in the selection of potential group makeup, such as: proximity and the
ease of getting together for practice; ease in sharing personal data;
having others who have strengths in processing; the manner and style in
the delivery of critical remarks; the level of spontaneity they have
and engender in others. To accommodate specific variables the
criteria may have “qualifiers” attached. For example, “Of the
people living closest to me geographically, whom do I choose to be in a
small group with to practice directing, twice monthly for two hours?”
Here are a few possible criteria:
1. Whom do I choose, not choose or am neutral to being in a group to practice directing?
2. In order to have the rigorous processing I need at this stage
in my directing, whom do I choose to have in a peer practice group with
3. In order to feel the support and encouragement I need in my
directing at this point, whom do I choose to be with in a peer practice
4. Since I get very annoyed and upset when people are late or cancel on
me, whom do I choose to be in a peer practice group which will meet on
time and with fewer cancellations?
5. Of the people I know less well, whom do I want to be in a peer
practice group with as a way of extending my knowledge of them as a
6. Of the people I imagine to be at a similar level of skill as me, whom do I choose to be in a peer practice group with?
7. Of the people living near me, whom do I choose to be with in a peer practice group?
Generation of data, pen and paper or in action
The group may want to use this opportunity to complete a full scale,
classical sociometric test. Once the criterion is selected each
person writes on an objective data sheet 1 for the sociometric test
their choices (1) to choose to be with in a peer practice group, (2) to
not be with; and (3) choose to be neutral toward the person on this
criterion. A perceptual data sheet may also be completed in order
that group members may check out their perceptions. Having time
to share the data in dyads is important. This can be accomplished using
a pairing format called “dance card” (Swenson, 2006)2
By talking with one another in private group members begin to know more
fully their position in the group, and know where they have reciprocal
connections. Using pen and paper each person is making they
choices known using the same time frame.
Choices made in action are impacted by the subtle movements toward and
away. The time frame stretches to allow slight adjustments due to
perceptions people have about whether or not they are actually a choice
for someone or not. Still, group members can all see the
possibilities for groups forming, take into account the size of groups
and the range of strong-to-weak connections. In groups where part
of the goal is that each person end up in a satisfactory peer group,
the members will make adjustments to help meet this goal as much as
Persons in the group can be asked to record choices made in action. As
well, the facilitator can ask that people indicate a choice by placing
a hand on the shoulder of the person they are choosing. When the
arms are extended , and everyone is facing into the circle, it is
possible to see the group’s action sociogram. You may need to go to
several levels of choice before the level of choice reveals sufficient
inclusion to begin to form groups.
1 Hale, Ann E. (1985) Conducting Clinical Sociometric Explorations (workbook edition) Roanoke, VA, Royal Publishing Co.. p. 179.
2 Swenson, Eva (2006) “ Using Dance Cards to Facilitate the Sharing Phase in Sociometric Explorations” Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, Volume 59, no. 3, (Fall, 2006) pp. 109-116.