Why Dr. Thomas Gordon’s “Parent Effectiveness Training” is Classroom-based

The question about whether P.E.T. can be taught online has come up from time to time and with the advances in technology, even more so recently.

Of course, it’s true that many courses can be effectively offered online, especially when they include mostly didactic material.  Some universities are now offering entire degrees online.

Because it’s sometimes difficult to find a P.E.T. course in a certain area or on a certain date, the idea of teaching/participating in a course online can sound like a good alternative.

We don’t want to insist on the traditional classroom training format simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  As a result, we’ve taken a hard look at what could be gained or lost by having P.E.T. offered online and have identified the reasons for maintaining our existing delivery system.

CLIMATE.  An emotional climate is the atmosphere in which we relate to each other.   It is the mood or tone that exists in a classroom or home or company—any place where people are relating to each other.   A P.E.T. Instructor creates the emotional climate through his/her attitude, enthusiasm, warmth, personal interactions and modeling of the P.E.T. skills.  This is especially important in a P.E.T. learning environment because many parents will be going through a life-changing experience which many are not even aware of before beginning the course.  Before even beginning with the course content, a P.E.T. instructor spends important time with the group creating a safe and positive learning environment.

FOCUS.  We all know that it is impossible to effectively focus on more than one thing at a time even though we often attempt to do so; studies have shown that effective multi-tasking is actually a myth.   Being in a classroom with an Instructor and a group which are all focused on the same activity at the same time creates the optimum environment for understanding the P.E.T. concepts and practicing the P.E.T. skills. In a classroom environment, the distractions of the outside world are absent—i.e., work, children, other people, cell phones, texting, tweeting,  googling, email, etc. unlike in a home or other remote setting.

Further, the Instructor is able to pick up on subtle reactions and non-verbal cues, sighs, puzzled looks, etc. from individual participants as well as from the entire group, that indicate they have a question, comment or issue which can be addressed on the spot.  These subtle cues may be missed online and they very often require Active Listening rather than an immediate answer. Active Listening necessitates decoding not only verbal responses but also nonverbal body language and facial expressions.   This is extremely difficult to do if you are only seeing the face of an individual and are not in the same room as the person you are listening to.

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING.  While there are short lectures for the purpose of presenting concepts and information, the majority of the time in a P.E.T. course is spent on practicing the skills through one-on-one or group skill practice, workbook exercises, role plays—all activities which the Instructor either facilitates, models, coaches or demonstrates, often with the involvement of one or more participants.

CAMARADERIE.  People most often sit in a circle in a P.E.T. class because they can all see everyone in the group and directly interact verbally and non-verbally.   This physical arrangement creates a feeling of connection, provides immediate individual and group feedback and creates an in-person group connection that is not possible through a tablet, monitor or cell phone screen.

Because the nature of the course content is so focused on direct personal interactions and sharing of real life experiences using the P.E.T. skills, group members very often develop close, supportive relationships. Parents not only share and celebrate their successes but they also feel free to disclose their failures and receive the support they need to learn from their mistakes, regain their confidence, and ultimately succeed in making P.E.T. a way of life.

The P.E.T. delivery system is an integral part of its effectiveness.

classroom learning parenting skills workshopIn addition to a set of concepts and skills, Gordon Training offers a successful delivery system which includes a 24-hour course taught by a trained and certified Instructor in a face-to-face classroom setting built on the model of learning by doing.

One of the essential skills of an effective P.E.T. instructor and a skill they teach to parents in P.E.T. courses is modeling.  Demonstrating the verbal communication skills of P.E.T. is incomplete without a strong emphasis on how a P.E.T. instructor acts, their body language, facial expressions and eye contact.   At times, these actions resonate even more strongly than their words.

A P.E.T. instructor’s attention needs to be on the participants in their course.  It’s challenging enough to manage a classroom—dealing with questions, people arriving late for class or returning from breaks, initial resistance to some of the skills, having enough time to teach the entire 24 hours of content without the added variable of dealing with technology.  In addition to introducing a totally different way of approaching parenting, an Instructor trying to offer the course online would also need to manage such potential issues as: a bad internet connection, Skype freezing up, trying to observe the non-verbal signals from participants via several small screens on his/her monitor, not being able to count on having the full attention of the participants who might get distracted by a child, phone call, tweet, text, etc. , all of which detract from and dilute the learning experience.

We have worked long and hard to protect the integrity of the Gordon model and we do not want to risk having it compromised by it being offered as an online course,  that by its very format, eliminates some of the most important group dynamics that are a fundamental part of the P.E.T. learning experience.

In summary, the human-to-human connection fostered in our P.E.T. courses facilitates a deeper, richer, more true-to-life experience.   For real life conflicts, emotionally-charged issues and the myriad of problems and decisions we encounter on a daily basis with those we love, we communicate face-to-face, in real time and not through the veil of a tablet screen, a computer monitor or via an iPhone app.

True human communication is deepened by looking into another’s eyes, feeling the warmth of a smile, being connected and supported by a physical touch.   It is our belief, and our experience over the past five decades that practicing the P.E.T. skills in a classroom environment with an on-site instructor is the best way to begin to integrate and then master them.  Therefore, to uphold the integrity of the Gordon Model, we choose to offer, and require our instructors to offer, all of our courses only in-person, in a classroom setting.

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