Group Work (Harvard Ref)

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Group Work

This essay provides definitions of community groups and examples of these with an analysis of their purpose and structure. Followed by group dynamics theory and the significance of communication within groups. The role of the community worker within groups and how the worker could manage difficult situations are also analysed.

There are various definitions for groups I have included one; “To put it simply they are units composed of two or more persons who come into contact for a purpose and who consider the contact meaningful.” Theodore M. Mills (1967: 2) Groups can be formed to serve various purposes types of groups include self help, welfare, representative, minority, action (or pressure), liaison, voluntary organisations and social groups. In addition to the various purposes of groups they can also vary in their structure as they can have open or closed membership, be formal or informal, task or process orientated, regular or ad hoc and form for varying durations. The first example of a group is a youth sports team. The type of group would be an activity group and the structure is informal. The membership would be closed as there would have to be trials etc prior to a new member joining the team. They would be task orientated as their main goal is to win matches and eventually the league they are a part of. With training and matches they would meet on a regular basis they could also exist for a long period of time. A second example of a group is youth club this would be an activity, educational, issue based or a social group. The structure would be informal with an open membership within a boundary as there would be an age limit. The group could meet on a regular basis for a long period of time. The last example is a management committee they would meet regularly over a long period of time and be process orientated. The committee has a closed membership as the members need to be elected and it would also be formal as there are legal obligations on the members of the committee.

The most commonly used theory of group life cycles is Tuckman (1965) he proposed a 4-stage model to highlight the life cycle of a group. Tuckman's model was added to by Jensen in 1977 who stated that there should be another stage. In this essay for the details of the group life cycle the Tuckman and Jensen (1977) model will be used. ‘Forming’ is the starting point. Following this some groups may not go through all the stages or may revisit stages such as when a new member joins. The second stage is ‘Storming’ which can be a stage of conflict as people are establishing themselves but if it is well managed by the worker it can lead to a solid base for the group being established, it is also worth noting that some groups do not develop past this stage. The third stage is ‘Norming’ this is the time in which the group start to be productive, develop trust and a consensus emerges along with clearer definitions of roles. ‘Performing’ is the next phase during which the group achieve the optimum performance level as they know each other, interact well, are cooperative and know how each member of the group works best. This stage is the ideal one for the group and worker to be in. The final stage that Jensen came up with is the ‘Mourning’ or ‘Adjourning’ stage. During this the group is breaking up and the members may be feeling a sense of loss. The worker should support the members and highlight the options available when the group comes to an end. The worker could also highlight the work that the group has carried out to help the participants recognise their achievements. If a team cannot get beyond the storming stage it is unlikely that they will ever be effective and the worker would have to assess whether it is productive to continue this group or if the issues can be resolved by training, drawing up a group agreement etc. Also groups may skip stages or re-enter previous stages.

This theory is helpful for a...
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