History and Design of Courses

Making some articles about these courses easily accessible was one of the main starting points of this website. The first two articles, 'Emergence' and 'The British Experience', give an account of the history of the course at the Poytechnic of North London - what came to be known as The Poly Course. (For these articles and the others in this section, simply scroll down page).

It led to what was called the Diploma in Applied Behavioural Science - a rather misleading title - it was very much not a stimulus-response situation. It was for mature students who wanted to explore and improve their experience and skills in working with groups and organisations - but very much from the position of collective responsibility for the use of resources. We had a large intake, 60 to 80 students, thus making it possible to simulate an organisation. 

The third article in 'Destination' (at bottom of navigation bar), called Humanistic Psychology in Britain - Roots and History provides a contemporary perspective (written in 2013).


Counselling Skills at South-West London College.

This course, based on the same principles of collective responsibility, was developed for the learning of skills in the particular area of counselling. It also led to a diploma.


Peer-Assessment in the Counselling Skills course.

So, also in this section, are descriptions of certain aspects of the design and structure of these courses.


Possession: The Mask.

This is an article about a way of looking at what happens in a social organism.

A lot of water has flown under many bridges over the years. Certainly these articles are, in this sense also, historical, as are those in the following two sections.

But in all of this, while other stuff, some of it of its time, will I hope be of interest (it still is to me): it is the work on collective decision-making, collaboration, joint control and ‘owning’ of resources, and on the structures which made this possible, that I believe is very much still valid today. It is this work, developed mainly at the Polytechnic of North London, in the setting of management studies for mature students, that I consider to be really worth recalling.

In our present political and economic situation it is for sure (again), I believe, highly relevant. Relevant, that is, not just in our education.  Relevant to our social and political and economic structuring.


1. Emergence -

Transcript of a broad-ranging lecture given in 2001. It covers 'self-direction', collective responsibility in education and management, theatre improvisation, 'happenings', human responsibility - and my own involvement in these areas over the years (and decades!)

pdf image Click to read...

2. The British Experience - -

talk to Social Skills conference, Paris 1982. More on the Polytechnic of North London Course. Also the Growth Movement in UK. It describes what I believe was the reactionary nature of group-work and of organisation development in general at the time. And I believe overall the contemporary equivalents largely remain so.

pdf image Click to read...

3. Planning a Student-Directed Programme - -

a detailed description of the structure for Counselling-Skills courses developed and used at S-W London College. Collective decision-making and co-operative organisation was also part of this structure.

pdf image Click to read...

4. Peer Assessment - - -

the issues around peer-assessment as viewed in the S-W London courses. In this article I was quite critical of the effect of the peer-assessment process. I have added a postscript written now modifying this view.

pdf image Click to read...

5. Possession: The Mask - a way of looking at events in a social organism - -

The pattern of a group event, illuminated by the phenomenon of the mask-state, and how this can be used to understand many events and to work with groups and organisations.

pdf image Click to read...