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Group Dynamics Essay

‘Hundreds of fish swimming together is called a school. A pack of foraging baboons is a troupe. A half dozen crows on a telephone wire is a murder. A gam is a group of whales. But what is a collection of human beings called? A group’. (Forsyth, 2006 P.2) A group can consist of two or more people interacting. Bruce Tuckman and Meredith Belbin both devised theories relating to the interactions and dynamics of groups, whilst Tuckman concentrated on the group as a whole, Belbin focused on the roles individuals played within a group. ‘For centuries, sages and scholars have been fascinated by groups – by the way they form, change over time, dissipate unexpectedly, achieve great goals, and sometimes commit great wrongs’ (Forsyth, 2006 P.2) While roots of group dynamics go back to the late 1800s, group dynamics gained prominence as a field of study in the early 1940s. ‘During World War II, Americans needed a better understanding of how democratic organizations could be made to function more effectively.’ (Levine, R. Rodreges, A. Zelezny, L. 2008 p.1).

Tuckman believed that a group moved through several stages which he referred to as; forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Forming, he felt, was the initial founding of the group when there was a high dependence on a leader for guidance and direction, whereas storming was the period of adjusting and adapting to group roles and dynamics where team members vie for position as they attempt to establish themselves in relation to other team members, the norming stage he believed was when everyone had found their place within the group, which was when performing would start to happen and lastly adjourning, when the group finally disseminated. Whereas, Belbin focused on each individual within a group/team and the role they played ‘A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them’(Belbin, 2014, p1). Belbin believed that there were nine role types spilt into 3 categories- cerebral, action orientated and people orientated. In the first category he placed plant, specialist and monitor evaluator.

In the second category he placed implementer, shaper and completer finisher and in the last category he grouped team-worker, co-ordinator and resource investigator believing that each person in the group would fit into or identify with one or more roles. He devised ‘The Belbin Test’ in which is a series of statements grouped into categories and a points system which will determine which of the nine role types people doing the test would fit into. When completing ‘The Belbin Test’ myself, using the two groups I am apart of (the larger counselling group and the small research group that we were split into for this units task) I emerged as a ME (Monitor Evaluator). According to Belbin the characteristics for this role are; sober, unemotional and prudent and I would definitely agree with prudent and sober however, I would strongly disagree with unemotional although, I do feel that in certain situations I can separate emotion, behaviour and so I can stand back from raw emotion. They are slow deciders who weigh up the pros and cons of options which describe me very well. He talks about the strengths of a Monitor Evaluator’s strengths as being- judgment, discretion and hard-headedness, the latter, in regards to me, I would disagree with.

Belbin also thought that their allowable weaknesses were, lack of inspiration or the ability to motivate others, which I feel from doing the research task I have learnt about myself. Whereas, in Tuckman’s ‘Teamwork Survey’ our research group scored as follows; 23 froming,20 storming, 16 norming and 19 performing, which according to Tuckman our team is still in the forming stage but he felt that if the scores were all fairly lose together then the group has no clear perception of the way the team operates. Judging by this I would say that from my perspective that Tuckman is correct because I feel that we weren’t a team at all, we didn’t really work together. One contributing factor I feel was that one member of our group was absent for the first session and was also absent for the first part of the following session and another member of the group went for a short break leaving two of us to discuss what we were going to do. I felt at this point that we were wasting valuable time because decisions couldn’t be made without others present.

There was no plan or real discussion, the most vocal of our group decided what she was going to do and asked if there were any objections and I had already analysed where my strengths lay and decided to voice that opinion too and although another member also expressed an interest, I decided that I would prudently push for the task of designing the PowerPoint slides. On reflection, when the names were being drawn out of a hat in order to decide on members for the research groups, I felt fairly nervous because there were two members of the group that, given a choice, I wouldn’t have chosen to work with, one because I have had the least social interaction with so far and the other because I find her slightly overbearing in her demeanour, although I do feel that her manner maybe due to insecurity rather than disrespect. There are many different types of groups, such as planned groups, which are deliberately formed, concocted groups i.e. military units or sports teams, founded groups- for instance, study groups or clubs, emergent groups such as smoking groups, circumstantial groups for example audiences or crowds and self-organising groups for instance, regular customers in a bar or friendship cliques in the workplace.

Groups can be brought together for many different reasons which can be split into four categories, intimacy groups (families), task groups (teams), weak associations (crowds) and social categories (women or doctors etc.) There are thirteen people in our student group, comprising of eleven females and two males and the one thing we all have in common is our goal of reaching the end of the two year course which will enable us to work as qualified counsellors. There are also many other similarities but there are also many differences. In therapy ‘early forms of group work were pioneered by Moreno with psychodrama, by Lewin through his invention of T-groups’ and by Bion in his psychoanalytic groups.’ (McLeod 1993, p.445) Carl Rogers coined the term, ‘The Basic Encounter’ Group to identify groups that operated on the principles of the person-centred approach. ‘The Basic Encounter Group is quite unique and, in fact, offers a different paradigm for group therapy.’ (The Basic Encounter Group 2014)

And in 1968 Carl Rogers, along with Richard Farson, took part in a touching documentary/film of an encounter group, in which eight strangers were brought together in a room and permitted to explore their inner thoughts feeling openly which was facilitated by Rogers and Farson. After watching the video and order to get a flavour of how it felt to be a part of an encounter group, our counselling group set up an encounter group session where anyone could offer a thought or feeling they had about an issue that they didn’t mind disclosing to the rest of the group and other members could join in or just observe. For me it felt both heart-warming and frustrating. Heart-warming because it felt as if there was a collective consciousness and genuine warmth towards each other, however there were times when I felt as if a few people were starting to give advice which I found frustrating because I felt as if they were trying to rescue people instead of listening without judgment.

Although there are many advantages of working in groups therapeutically, such as, a feeling of shared experiences and unity, a sense of support and social aspects (meeting new people) there are also disadvantages such as, issues around confidentiality, concerns around emotions or people getting out of hand and feelings for some people of vulnerability amongst others. In the large counselling group, although I would describe myself as an introvert I don’t feel that I am too quiet and I wouldn’t describe myself as shy I feel that I contribute to the group and I definitely feel as if I am an fundamental member of the group. If I were to analyse my role(s) within the group according to Belbin, I would say that I am ‘Monitor Evaluator’ and a ‘Team Worker’ because I weigh things up before making a decision and look at all the options and I am interested in other peoples point of view as well as trying hard to be as versatile as possible but the down side to that is that I find it hard to motivate others and have great difficulty making a quick decision. However, in the research group I feel that I did take more of a dominant role because there was no natural leader/organiser so after realising that I just naturally started to make suggestions and ask opinions.

In my opinion I would agree with my results (when doing the Belbin test) of Monitor Evaluator and if I had to guess at the roles the other three members of our research group according to this test, I would say that LK was an ‘Implementer’ because she was disciplined, reliable, conservative and efficient but DJ played the role of ‘Team Worker’ because he was co-operative, mild perceptive and diplomatic, whereas LE’s role, in my opinion, was ‘Resource Investigator’ because she is extrovert, enthusiastic and communicative. The presentation I felt came together fairly well, although I feel it could have been more of a success if we had had more time for the group to develop and had discussed equally and openly our thoughts and feelings about the task ahead. Personally I felt that we wasted valuable time and avoided issues that may have caused conflict. Our group researched German-American psychologist Kurt Lewin who set up a Research Centre for Group Dynamics (RCGD) in the late 1930’s and 1940’s.

The RCGD revitalized the empirical approach and, more important, created one that was different from anything in the past and that still defines the best of the field today’ (Levine, R. Rodreges, A. Zelezny, L. 2008). Our presentation mainly focused on his ‘Three Stage Model’ for change. Lewin recognised a ‘need to provide a process whereby the members could be engaged in and committed to changing their behaviour’ (Lewin, 2004 p. 983) His three stage process for change comprised of the principle of unfreezing, changing and refreezing. Using the analogy of an ice-cube, the first step is to unfreeze/melt the cube, the second stage is to change the shape of the liquid and the third stage was to refreeze it into a different shape. He believed that if there was good communication, rumours were dispelled, everyone was included and by praising people’s efforts, change could occur but it would take time.

I like this model of change because I can relate to it and I have recently had experience of such a change because the school that I work in has just (on June 1st) become an academy. In conclusion, I feel that I identified mostly with Belbin’s theory of roles people play within groups because the results from the Belbin test, for me, fitted very well with how I worked within our research group, however, having frequently worked with groups of young people, I know that Tuckman’s theory can be useful in determining where a group is at in terms of effective performance and it would have been valuable in our research group if we had had more time to develop as a group. Lewin’s three stage model I feel would be effective when working in a team/company although I got a sense of how it worked within our whole counselling group when unforeseen circumstances meant that the group had to get used to a new tutor and teaching style.

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