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You have been assigned a Group Project. Great! You look forward to the sharing of the work load and problem solving, the creative buzz of shared ideas, and sharing your ideas and know-how in getting things done. However you have hit some snags and can't understand what is happening to the group. There are two important aspects of working in a group and that is the task, or the subject and content of the project, and the process of how you will work together and what you will each contribute. Understanding and managing the process will determine how well your group functions
Understanding the four stages of the group lifespan will help you understand the changes that naturally occur when two or more people work together.
Stage 1 Forming
This is the beginning stage of the group when everybody is polite and where some people can be guarded about their own opinions leaving the more confident members to take over as leaders.
Stage 2 Storming
In the next stage ideas are expressed more openly and clashes can occur, especially with leaders. Communication can become more chaotic as there may be less listening, more conflicting ideas as some want a greater say than others.
Stage 3 Norming
In this third stage the in-fighting subsides, there is a new spirit of co-operation as members begin to feel secure in expressing their own point of View, people start to listen, and most importantly, methods of working together are established with greater confidence.
Stage 4 Performing
The group now has a system for speaking freely and with a higher level of support by the group for each other and its own decisions.
Why group work is considered important?
The belief is that people have different ways of learning that, when shared, bring about better, more creative thinking and better resolutions to problems. In other words "two heads are better than one" as the saying goes. Because group work requires skills in management, in terms of the task and how it is organised, as well as accommodating different personality characteristics and abilities, all this requires experience and practise in working together. The skills you learn and use in group work have long term implications in the workplace where people generally work in a team.
The following ideas are from Derek Bok Centre for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University