The concept of theme-centered interaction by Ruth Cohn. Enhancing classroom situations

Akademische Arbeit, 2015

16 Seiten, Note: 1,5


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Ruth Cohn
Her Life
Her Notions and View on Mankind

3. The TCI-Concept
The Intention of TCI
The Four Factors-Model
I: The individual.
We: The group interaction.
It: The task.
The Globe: The context.
The first axiom: Autonomy and interdependence.
The second axiom: Appreciation and respect.
The third axiom: Freedom of decisions.
The chairperson postulate: Each person is responsible for himself.
The disturbances postulate: Disturbances must be eliminated in order for the group to function.
Living Learning
Dynamic Balance
Auxiliary rules
Self-organization and self-administration.
Steering of attention and concentration.
Conversation organization.

4. How to Use the TCI-Concept in the Classroom
TCI in Educational Settings: the Educational Equilibrium
Minimizing Fear and Promoting Interest by Granting Trust
Dealing with Disturbances
Providing Feedback
Learner Autonomy
Handling Rivalry

5. Synopsis

6. References


Theme-Centered Interaction is a concept by Ruth C. Cohn to enhance teamwork and interactions that take place within groups. Furthermore, TCI is a stance that encourages an appreciative cooperation among people and supports “living learning.” Thus, TCI is considered to be an ideal model to lead and accompany groups in order to improve the process of learning. Consequently, TCI is used especially when “working with groups and teams” (RCI n.d.c, first para.) and when teaching in schools, institutions of higher education and adult education, but also in counseling and coaching.

Theme-Centered Interaction has a holistic view on mankind and focuses on the individual person. Different opinions and lifestyles are respected and thus create an esteeming atmosphere, in which each individual is considered to be important and is supported in his development according to his abilities and wishes.

Four factors might influence the interaction within groups: the individual, the group interaction, the theme and the globe. To have a group work successfully on one task, a dynamic balance of these four factors must be achieved. Disturbances, however, must be regarded to ensure this equilibrium and thus enhance “living learning.”

Because of its notions, the TCI-concept is an ideal model to be used in education. How does Theme-Centered Interaction enhance classroom situations? How does it prevent disturbances and rivalry, and can it effectively cope with diversity? Moreover, how far does it provide honest feedback and learner autonomy?

Ruth Cohn

Her Life

Ruth Cohn was mainly influenced by her existential experiences with the NS regime and her notions of humanistic psychology, which led her to develop and publish the TCI-concept that facilitates the interaction within groups.

Ruth Charlotte Cohn, née Hirschfeld, was born in 1912 in Berlin to upper class German-Jewish parents. From 1931 to 1932 she studied economics and psychology at the universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. Soon after the National Socialist party took over the German government in 1933, Ruth Cohn fled to Zürich, Switzerland, to escape the arising oppression and harassment of Jews.

In Switzerland, she married her longtime friend Hans Helmut Cohn, thus enabling his family to leave Nazi-Germany. Ever since, Ruth Cohn has referred to her anxiety about her family and friends who had remained in Germany.

In Zürich, Ruth Cohn majored in psychology and was trained as a psychoanalyst. Furthermore, she devoted herself to studies in education, theology, literature, and philosophy.

In 1941, Ruth Cohn emigrated to the United States of America to once more escape persecution. In the United States, however, the New Yorker Psychoanalytic Institute refused her a work permit, but allowed her to work with children instead. Ruth Cohn was furious about this decision because she considered children’s problems to be as important as those of adults. Thus, Ruth Cohn worked as a student teacher at Bank Street School, and her experiences gave her important insights into a positive and enriching work field. Later, she described Bank Street School as the source of “living learning” by following the traces of children’s interests – how she described it.

In the 1950s and 1960s Ruth Cohn developed and published her work on Theme-Centered Interaction (TCI) to foster “living learning.” The aim of this concept has been to establish a tolerating and accepting climate in which people work together effortlessly and constructively on one goal. Therefore, Ruth Cohn and her colleagues founded the Workshop Institute for Living Learning (WILL) in 1966. Especially teachers and theologians were fascinated by the holistic view on mankind. In 2003, WILL was renamed to Ruth Cohn Institute for TCI-international.

Ruth Cohn returned to Europe in 1974 and died in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2010.

Her Notions and View on Mankind

Ruth Cohn (RCI n.d., first para.) explained her notions of and ideas for the TCI-concept with the following words:

I would like to encourage people, who do not care for all this suffering, not to resign or feel hopeless, but to use their imagination and ability to work actively in solidarity, as long as we are able to feel our own autonomy. – This is what I really want to do with TCI.

Ruth Cohn noticed that conflicts partially arise from group leaders when they try to change group members in order to incorporate them into the interaction in order to help them ultimately reach the goal. She proposed that it is important that the individual asks what he should do with himself when he feels that another person is misbehaving. Ruth Cohn believed that each counterpart must be taken the way he is – with his strengths and weaknesses – and that changes must arise from the individual himself. She, therefore, oriented herself toward the humanistic view on mankind, which is basically taken for granted but often disregarded in everyday life. The humanistic conception of man appreciates that the past, present, and future influence each individual; accepts otherness and regards it as worth protecting; acknowledges the opportunities to learn from others; is aware of the individual’s autonomy and his interdependence; and understands that every person carries self-responsibility.

Ruth Cohn recognized that each person must commit himself to his obligations to change the world for the better. Based on these findings, she developed the TCI-concept.

The TCI-Concept

The Intention of TCI

The Theme-Centered Interaction-Concept by Ruth Cohn is a model to facilitate and encourage exchange and cooperation within groups. The TCI-concept is based on theories residing in psychoanalysis, group counseling, and humanistic psychology. Furthermore, it is an attitude to support an appreciative contact among individuals. The TCI-concept is a theory that relies on four factors and focuses on the humanistic and anthropocentric view on mankind. It considers the individual autonomously but simultaneously interdependent on others in his environment. As a basic principle, the TCI-concept assumes that work and learning processes and developments can be designed in a humane and humanizing manner.

The Four Factors-Model

The four factors of the TCI-concept resemble a complex structure of relationships; they influence each other, and solely when in a harmonious equilibrium, they enhance the successful exchange within a group. The influencing forces, therefore, are arranged as a triangle with the “Globe” (represented as a circle or sphere) surrounding the three vertices “I,” “We,” and “It” (see Figure 1). “I” and “We” represent the human level, whereas “It” depicts the factual level.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1 . The four factors-model of the TCI-concept

I: The individual.

“I” represents the individual person with his thoughts, feelings, skills, fears, and demands as well as his complete biography. Every single person involved in a group, therefore, acts as an “I.” The individual must be aware that his wishes and actions affect the others in a group as well as the “It.” In the educational context, “I” mainly represents the teacher, who must always consider his own interests in addition to those of his students. He must, however, embrace each student – whether child or adult – as an individual, too.

The group leader is expected to participate in the group interactions and to recognize himself as being a part of the group. The participating leader must, therefore, act as a role model (according to the axioms and postulates) and authentically contribute his opinions and positions.

We: The group interaction.

The group and the dynamics that result from the interactions among the group members are called “We.” The group usually congregates for different reasons but with one common goal. The “We” then interacts with the “I” and the “It.” “We” dismisses the belief that the individual group member must retract but intends that each individual contributes something valuable to the group.

It: The task.

“It” describes the theme that is worked on: it can either be content, a task, a matter of interest or importance, or a subject matter. “It” resembles the common goal toward which the “I” and the “We” work. Furthermore, the task or the theme is the reason why the group has come into being and is reflected in the expression “Theme-Centered Interaction.”

The Globe: The context.

The “Globe” stands for the general conditions, the context, and environmental influences. Within the “Globe,” interaction among the “I,” the “We,” and the “It” takes place. Furthermore, factors like place, time, events, and given structures (for example, school regulations) that additionally influence the interaction are counted as “Globe” parameters.


The three axioms resemble the values of and views on mankind that the TCI-concept cherishes; the axioms are considered to be the basic beliefs of methodical behavior and non-negotiable requirements for working with the TCI-concept. There is, however, no preset way; whereas certain directions that would infringe on these principles are ruled out in general.

The first axiom: Autonomy and interdependence.

The first axiom is also called the existential-anthropological axiom and is the foundation of the TCI-concept and its holistic view on mankind. It considers the individual as being one “psycho-biological unit” (RCI n.d.a, Participating leader section, second para.) that, thus, is autonomous but also interdependent on the persons in his surroundings. Ruth Cohn and Alfred Farau (1984) said that the more a person becomes aware of his interdependence on others and the world surrounding him, the more autonomous he will be.

The second axiom: Appreciation and respect.

The second axiom, also known as the ethic axiom, asks each person to respect and cherish other creatures and ways of life. Ruth Cohn and Alfred Farau (1984) summarized this axiom by stating that appreciation and admiration should be paid to each living soul and its growth. It is, therefore, inhumane to endanger both mental and cognitive features.

The third axiom: Freedom of decisions.

The third axiom, also referred to as the pragmatic-political axiom, focuses on freedom of decision. The process of making decisions is influenced by internal and external restrictions; theses boundaries, however, are negotiable.


The two postulates derive from the axioms and are conceived to be the instructions on how to successfully and non-threateningly interact within a group. How these guidelines are deployed in reality, however, is the individual’s own responsibility.

The chairperson postulate: Each person is responsible for himself.

Ruth Cohn defined the chairperson postulate as: “Be your own chairman/chairwoman, be your own chairperson” (Cohn & Farau 1984, p. 358, own translation). This means that the individual is responsible for himself and others; therefore he must act in a self-determined, self-responsible and self-confident way.

The disturbances postulate: Disturbances must be eliminated in order for the group to function.

The disturbances postulate states “Disturbances take precedence” (Cohn & Farau 1984, p. 603). Disturbances can vary and, furthermore, emanate from group members (from “I” and/or “We”) or from external circumstances (from the “Globe”). It is important to eliminate disturbances in order to facilitate living learning and the dynamic balance.

Living Learning

Living learning is a holistic approach and is the result of interaction between at least two individuals; thus, it occurs in everyday situations. When the individual additionally learns to appreciate other persons beyond their functions in society, all of them are in a “living-learning encounter” (Cohn 1993, p. 12). As a result, Ruth Cohn claimed that learning and living must be intertwined, especially because human beings learn throughout their lives. Furthermore, this means that the individual’s interests must be considered, and ensuing from these interests, the individual is enabled to discover his surroundings: “Because the origin of learning is in the here and now of experiencing; learning cannot be forced upon, but must be experienced with body, soul, brain and mind” (Cohn & Farau 1984, p. 327, own translation).


Ende der Leseprobe aus 16 Seiten


The concept of theme-centered interaction by Ruth Cohn. Enhancing classroom situations
Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg  (Englisch)
Expository and Research Writing
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
ruth, cohn, enhancing
Arbeit zitieren
Helene Weitzel (Autor:in), 2015, The concept of theme-centered interaction by Ruth Cohn. Enhancing classroom situations, München, GRIN Verlag,


  • Noch keine Kommentare.
Im eBook lesen
Titel: The concept of theme-centered interaction by Ruth Cohn. Enhancing classroom situations

Ihre Arbeit hochladen

Ihre Hausarbeit / Abschlussarbeit:

- Publikation als eBook und Buch
- Hohes Honorar auf die Verkäufe
- Für Sie komplett kostenlos – mit ISBN
- Es dauert nur 5 Minuten
- Jede Arbeit findet Leser

Kostenlos Autor werden