featured articles: informal education, lifelong learning and social action

the history of group work (groupwork)

a developing set of materials on group work (groupwork)from the encyclopaedia of informal education


features home


The development of thinking and practice that we now know as group work (groupwork) has it roots in the emergence of youth work and settlement work during the nineteenth century. In the encyclopaedia you can explore some emerging forms of work and then turn to Kenneth E. Reid's examination of the development of group work (groupwork) practice and theorizing in the 1920s and 1930s in the United States (social group work (groupwork): formulation of a method, 1920-1936). You can also review the contribution of one of the key figures in this movement: Grace Coyle.

the development of a method

Within the United States group work (groupwork) increasingly became seen as an element of social work and its proponents appealed to professional norms and organizing ideas (see group work (groupwork) - expansion and professionalism, 1937 - 1955). Among the important populizers and innovators was Gertrude Wilson and later, Gisela Konopka. In Britain it was youth workers like Josephine Macalister Brew and those interested in community development and community functioning (like Josephine Klein) who championed the cause of group work (groupwork). In the UK it was only really in the 1960s that group work (groupwork) entered strongly into discussions of education and welfare (with writers like Joan Matthews, Leslie Button, Fred Milson and Bernard Davies assuming some significance).


We have a significant amount of archive material on group work (groupwork) and overviews of a number of key thinkers (see our group work [groupwork] arena.)