The essence of participation training : a phenomenological examination of graduate student experiences
Since Bergevin and McKinley (1966) first wrote about Participation Training as a way to create collaboration among learners, more than 40 years of research has explored, separated, and defined various types of group work and group learning. Themes that emerged in the study were: Participation Training as something missing, Participation Training as resistance, Participation Training as "self' concepts, Participation Training as theater, Participation Training as negotiation, and Participation Training as shared experience. Data collected through interviews with individuals who experienced a 2007 Participation Training Institute reveal the complex, eductive nature of the phenomenon. That is, although the structures employed throughout the training were articulated before the participants actually experienced them, the constructed process, including content, was entirely authored by the particular group of people involved. The structural tools that define the procedure were prescribed; learners came to Participation Training having read about the structure of the training, the roles, and yet every one of the contributors believed there was no structure present at the beginning of the training. The experience of Participation Training did not depend on discussion content; it depended on rehearsal and reflection. In this study, contributors perceived the absence of content as the absence of structure. When none was supplied, they gradually created structure by determining content together, so they were able to take "ownership" of the process as they generated it. This absence of prescribed content was, for these contributors, the essence of Participation Training.Using a variety of theoretical lenses, Participation Training should be explored for its potential towards helping learners – teachers and students – work together through the development of individual skills that support interdependence. Since Participation Training is based on dialogue, discourse analysis might provide a particularly rich window onto the development of various forms of interaction among learners; semiotics could examine the meaning of Participation Training as a face-to-face, rather than technologically mediated, experience. Comparative case studies might reveal productive similarities and differences between Participation Training and other forms of group learning.