Techniques: Teaching Curriculum and Program Planning in Israel: Another Use of the Nominal Groups Technique

Article excerpt

Thirty Israeli graduate students taking an adult education course in curriculum and program planning in physical education found the Nominal Groups Technique to be easy to grasp, and to use. They liked the technique, and many indicated they wanted to use it as a group problem solving process. Twenty "issues" in curriculum program planning, as well as adult education relating to physical education in Israel were identified.

Introduction

The Nominal Groups Technique (NGT) is a useful method for teaching adults about problem solving (Kreiger, 1991). Recently I taught a course in curriculum and program planning to 30 graduate students in Israel (Humphrey, 1996). I used the Nominal Groups Technique both as a problem solving method for identifying and prioritizing issues in Israeli physical and adult education, and as a "method" for teaching adults about problem solving. This article includes a review of the Nominal Groups Technique, followed by a description of its application with students in Israel.

The Nominal Groups Technique (NGT)

NGT is the name given to a group problem solving technique developed by Andre Delbecq and Andrew Van de Ven at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960's (Delbecq, Van de Ven and Gustafson, 1975). It has been adapted widely in community development adult education. During the last 10 years it has been adopted as the "technique" in the computer program driving the Simplot Decision Center located at Idaho State University. It incorporates the positive aspects of brainstorming, democratic discussion, silent voting, and prioritizing of problems. Other adult educators (Apps, 1991; Houle, 1996) have suggested that the Nominal Groups Technique is a very useful method for teaching adults. That Galbraith (1991) devoted an entire chapter to this technique in his book on methods for teaching adults provides even further reinforcement of NGT as a tool for both teaching problem solving and effectively using it as a priority-setting device. The NGT results do not require any statistical analysis to be interpreted.

The technique involves six stages:

1. Formulating the question/problem to be solved. This is usually done by a group's facilitator before the technique is introduced. There is a positive correlation between how well the question is phrased, and how well the technique works.

2. Generation of ideas. The question is presented to the group members, and time allowed for each participant to write down ideas; this step is done individually and without group interaction.

3. Round-robin listing. After allowing time for step two, the facilitator asks each group member to (in turn) reveal his/her ideas. These ideas are recorded on a flip chart, black/white board, or on a computer terminal. All of the ideas listed in this step must be visible to all group participants.

4. Discussion of ideas. During this step, all ideas listed in step three are clarified. Ideas that duplicate each other or have the same meaning are eliminated by group consensus.

5. Voting on individual ideas. The facilitator tells the participants to assign the highest numerical value to the idea they think the most important, and so on until each person has rank ordered all the items listed in step four. Voting can be done manually or electronically, depending on technology available.

6. Tabulating the voting. The votes are tabulated, and the "issue" with the highest numerical score is considered the highest priority for problem solving. The second highest scored ideas become second priority, and so on. I have also successfully used this technique with community groups, adult education classes, and with church councils. When the audience is large, groups should be split into subgroups of five to eight people. (Humphrey, 1977).

NGT in an Israeli Educational Setting

The course was conducted through a cooperative agreement between Idaho State University's College of Education and the Israeli Center for Academic Studies in Be'er Sheva, a community of 150,000 located in the Negev region. …