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Perceptions and Evaluations of Lifespring Participants

Lee Ross, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. He has published books and academic articles on the processes by which people make judgments and predictions about themselves and others in the context of social interaction. Ross also consults extensively both on program evaluation and aspects of forensic psychology.

Morton Lieberman, Ph.D., is a faculty member in the departments of Psychiatry and Human Development and Aging at the University of California at San Francisco. For more than 30 years, he has been studying experiential education situations that are capable of helping people to learn, grow, and develop.

Irvin Yalom, M.D., is the Medical Director for the Stanford University Hospital Psychiatric Inpatient Unit in California. The author of half a dozen books and numerous articles, Yalom's professional experience includes extensive research in group dynamics and their psychological impact on participants.

Ross Study

Goal
The primary goal of the Ross study was to determine the perceptions and evaluations of participants in the Lifespring Basic and Advanced Courses.

Background
The study focused on participants' immediate evaluations of the courses, probing consumer satisfaction and allowing participants to evaluate virtually all aspects of the courses, to share their feelings and experiences, to indicate what value they believed they received, and to express any reservations about the course content or presentation.

The Training
Professor Ross designed questionnaires to assess the specific reactions and evaluations of 245 students who completed the Basic Training and 122 students who completed the Advanced Course. A report of the results, void of the names to maintain confidentiality, was provided to Lifespring.

Evaluations of Specific Aspects of the Basic Training
When participants were asked to assess the value of 11 major components of the Basic Training, using a 5-point scale ranging from "no value" to "one of the most valuable experiences in my life," every single component received a clearly positive rating from the majority of participants.

Three broader categories used in the training--lectures and didactics, experiential processes, and guided imagery exercises--all received one of the two highest ratings from 70-80% of the participants.

Other specific exercises received the same high marks:

  • Rated as one of the most valuable experiences in my life, or of considerable value
  • General intimacy and fellowship 88%
  • Opportunity to experience new things about myself and how I deal with others 90%
  • Opportunity to learn about what I need and want in my life 82%
  • Observing interactions between the instructor and other students 81%
  • Open-ended questions gave further evidence of widespread approval: 90% of the participants cited some especially valuable feature in the training, with almost every single process or exercise cited by at least some participants.
Other Impressions

Participants indicated that the following statements were "generally true" or "very true":

  • The course was interesting and enlightening 99%
  • The course was fun 95%
  • The instructor handled difficult situations well 98%
  • I feel increased self-liking and acceptance 84%
  • The course helped me appreciate the value of others 93%
  • The course encouraged openness and relating more intimately 93%
  • The course enhanced my feelings of personal responsibility and control 91%
  • Negative statements were almost universally rated as false, and participants overwhelmingly rejected the notion that suggested they felt threatened in any way during the courses.

Q. How would you compare the value you received to the tuition cost?

85% (Basic graduates) and 93% (Advanced graduates) of the participants expressed clear satisfaction when asked to place a monetary value on the course, with an overwhelming 90% (Basic graduates) and 91% (Advanced graduates) indicating that the courses were even more valuable than they had anticipated.

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