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Theories in group work

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Reflection on group task

This essay is going to reflect on learning gained from a group task carried out in the unit lectures. I will explore the theories which inform group work, inter-disciplinary and collaborative working and the application of these theories in relation to the group work. I will also identify how I will develop my practice in relation to my current skills and areas for development. Finally, I will also reflect on how I have developed my self-awareness, professional values and professional development, in relation to group work task and how this will inform my future professional practice.

Toseland and Rivas (2008) define group work as a goal directed activity aimed at accomplishing tasks. Members of the group have the opportunity to share ideas, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, engage in interactions and also share experiences. The group members develop feelings of mutual interdependence and a sense of belonging. Martin and Rogers (2004) define inter-disciplinary working as a team of individuals with different professionals working collaboratively with a shared understanding of goals, tasks and responsibilities. This collaborative working is needed when the problems are complex, a consensus decision is required and also when different competencies are needed. According to Cheminais (2009), the approach to the collaborative working requires clarity on roles, power, accountability and strategic planning.

Salas et al. (2012) states that, group work was developed from a philosophy of people working together for mutual gain and theories later emerged to provide clarity regarding the dynamics of groups and to provide an understanding of human behaviour. A group or team can be understood by looking at Tuckman and Jensen’s (1977) model of group formation which comprise of forming, storming, norming, performing and later adjourning. According to Tuchman and Jensen (1977), the forming stage of a group involves clarifying common interests and roles to be played. Martin and Rogers (2004) states that, in an inter-disciplinary team this is the stage where membership is established, team purpose is clarified, roles and boundaries are decided and interpersonal relationships begin. According to Tuchman and Jensen (1977), the storming stage may involve the problem-solving processes and this is usually where conflict emerges. If the conflict is unresolved, it can inhibit the team’s progress. The norming stage usually involves the clarification of the task and establishing the agenda. This stage involves belonging, growth and control. The performing stage involves the allocation, implementation, and evaluation of the task. Finally, the adjourning stage can include the celebration of task completion.

Reflecting on the unit group task, I think my group went through Tuckman and Jensen’s (1977) model group formation which included the “forming”stage in which the group purpose was clarified. The group went through the “stormimg” stage and at that point, there were disagreements on what should be included and how the task will be presented. One of the group members suggested that a role play was ideal for the presentation and I was not comfortable with the idea, as I thought that all of the information was not going to be included in the role play. I was anxious, as I had not get the general picture of exactly what the role play was about. I alsofeltanxious as other members elected me to take the lead role as I had experience in working with psychiatrists. At that time I felt that the team wanted me to do most of the task and I rejected their ideas they were putting forward. I think I did this unconsciously because I realised my actions later on when my group members gave feedback. The group also decided that we give ourselves time to research on the topic given (norming stage) and then meet the following week. I was very frustrated to find the following week that some of the group members did not bring the material they had researched. As I have worked with psychiatrist before and had researched I took on the lead role and shared the information I had.

Belbin’s (2010) work identified roles in teams which each offer positive contributions to team working. The roles include innovator, implementer, completer, evaluator, investigator, shaper, team maintainer, co-ordinator and expert. Reflecting on Belbin’s (2010) group roles, each team member brought strength and perspectives grounded in their discipline and experience. During the group work task, I had the experience and knowledge in relation to the task and I found myself leading the group on sourcing information. I got positive feedback from my group colleagues such as, “goal oriented, researched well on the topic, contributed well and very good ideas on the role play”, however I was criticised for being inflexible with ideas of others. I think I took the role of an implementer who turns ideas and decisions into tasks and actions but inflexible and reluctant to change plans. However from my previous placement I think I took the role of an investigator in a proposed group project of working with young mothers to enable them to gain independent skills. The project failed because I lost interest as a result of constraint in obtaining the resources.

In Belbin’s (2010) model, an investigator explores opportunities and resources from many sources however can jump from one task to another and lose interest. Looking back at it, I think this was because I tend to do things in a structured way and task oriented. The resources in the organisations did not allow me to do the task in time and I end up losing interest. I later understood the situation of working in an organisation team by looking at the group system theory.

According to Connors and Caple (2005), group systems theory provides an understanding and working with teams or groups in an organisation as it goes beyond a focus on the individual or interpersonal exchanges. They suggested that, a group systems theory is influenced by the interactions within the group and by the external environment. All the group members influence group dynamics however, the organisation in which the group work may impacts the group work with its boundaries, power structures that make decisions and the resources it allocates for group work. The environment impacts the group and the group can impact the larger social environment. I abandoned a project which was going to benefit the young mothers and in a way the community as well. In group systems theory, a change in any part of a system creates change in that system and in the other systems in which it is embedded.

Another form of group theory emerged from Bion (1989) who viewed the group working as a collective entity and was concerned with overt and covert aspects. Bion (1989) suggested that overt aspects are the task and purpose of the group. The covert aspects are the unconscious emotions and the basic assumptions of group functioning. Bion (1989) also proposed three basic assumptions in group working. He suggested that there is the dependency group, which assumes that security and protection can be obtained from the group leader. Members expect the leader to have all the answers. As a result, individuals may act helpless and incompetent in the hopes that the group leader will carry the responsibilities. This was evident in my group as they assumed that as I am a mental health nurse and had worked with psychiatrist before, I will have all the information at hand. When this did not occur, group members become angry or expressed their disappointment by acting incompetent and not doing enough research. Bion’s (1989) other basic assumption is the fight-flight group. Examples of flight include absences and fight is demonstrated by resisting reflection and self-examination. In inter-disciplinary working, flight is demonstrated by blaming management for the failure of team work. The final basic assumption identified by Bion (1989) is the pairing group where two group members form a bond. The rest of the group may become inactive as the pair rely on each other and exclude other group members.

Salas et a.l (2012) state that, it is necessary to develop a theoretical framework to guide group practice and to support my techniques and interventions. I am responsible for formulating my own theoretical framework that is derived from the synthesis of theories and that is aligned with my natural views and inclinations. To achieve this it is imperative that I be self-aware and grounded in theories of small group work, including the strengths and limitations of the theories. Only then I can select theories and interventions that are advantageous and appropriate fit for the client. The Health and Care Professions Council (HPCP) (2012) also states that, I should understand the key concepts of the knowledge base relevant to social work so as to achieve change and development.

Gilley et al. (2010) suggested that the purpose of a group is to accomplish the task and for the practitioner to develop problem-solving skills. As a social work student, in order to work collaboratively, I need to develop skills, knowledge, and attitudes in conflict resolution, problem solving, communication, organisational understanding, decision making, and task coordination. This is imperative as I will be working in teams with other professionals or agencies.

From the unit group work, I have learnt that co-operation is vital for effective teamwork. Acknowledging and respecting other opinions and viewpoints while maintaining the willingness to examine and change personal beliefs and perspectives are some of the skills I have learnt. I also now have an understanding of the importance of accepting and sharing responsibilities, participating in group decision-making and effective communication. I have also developed skills in exchanging of ideas and discussion and also how to relay and support my own viewpoint with confidence.

As a future social worker, specific leadership skills are required to manage an inter-disciplinary team, so I need to develop skills in the ability to recognise the challenges inherent not only in group dynamics, but in trying to blend the different professional cultures represented in the team. According to Crawford (2012), to work effectively and confidently with other professionals, I need to understand my own professional identity as a social worker. The HCPC (2012) states that, I need to be able to engage in inter-professional and inter-agency communication and work in partnership with other agencies as part of a multi-disciplinary team. It is also vital that I develop self awareness of my behaviour and values. According to Hall (2005), values are internalised, therefore they can create obstacles that may actually be invisible to different team members. Therefore the professional values must be made apparent to all professionals involved.

Through experiences in group work feedback received from other group members and self observation, I have learnt about my maladaptive style of interacting with others and perceptual distortions. I have also learnt that I need to acknowledge and appreciate the differences and adjust, adapt, and mirror interpersonal interactions when interacting with others. If faced with the same situation again I would try to take into consideration other people’s ideas and also take into consideration that, as people we are different and we have different approaches to tasks.


Belbin, R. M. (2010) Management teams. 3rd edn. Oxford: Elsevier Limited

Bion, W. R. (1989) Experiences in groups and other papers. New edition. London: Routledge

Cheminais, R. (2009) Effective multi-agency partnerships : putting every child matters into practice. Dawsonera [Online]. Available at: https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9781446203514/startPage/38 (Accessed: 13 January 2014)

Connors, J. and Caple, R. (2005) “Review of group systems theory”,Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 30(2), pp. 93-110, SocINDEX [Online]. Available at: http://0-ehis.ebscohost.com.brum.beds.ac.uk/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=a5e06866-f590-4862-bcbb-3dea9991c6f0%40sessionmgr4005&hid=4108 (Accessed: 30 December 2013)

Crawford, K. (2012) Interprofessional Collaboration in Social Work Practice. London: sage Publications Limited

Gilley, J.W., Waite, A.M., Coates, T., Veliquette, A. and Morris, M.L. (2010) "Integrated theoretical model for building effective teams",Advances In Developing Human Resources12(1) pp. 7-28.SCOPUS [Online]. Available at: http://0-ehis.ebscohost.com.brum.beds.ac.uk/eds/detail?sid=a5e06866-f590-4862-bcbb-3dea9991c6f0%40sessionmgr4005&vid=10&hid=4108 (Accessed: 30 December 2013)

Hall, P. (2005) “Interprofessional teamwork: professional cultures as barriers”,Journal of Interprofessional Care19 pp. 188-196. CINAHL [Online]. Available at: http://0-ehis.ebscohost.com.brum.beds.ac.uk/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=13&sid=a5e06866-f590-4862-bcbb-3dea9991c6f0%40sessionmgr4005&hid=4108 (Accessed: 12 January 2014)

Health and Care Professions Council (2012) Standards of proficiency. Available at: http://www.hpc-uk.org/assets/documents/10003B08Standardsofproficiency-SocialworkersinEngland.pdf (Accessed: 20 January 2014)

Martin, V. and Rogers, A. M. ( 2004) Leading interprofessional teams in health and social care. Dawsonera [Online]. Available at: https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9780203505359/startPage/139 (Accessed: 10 January 2014)

Salas, L. M., Roe-Sepowitz, D. and Le Croy, C. W. (2012) “Small group theory”, in Thyer, B. A., Dulmus, C. N. and Sowers, K. M. (eds) Human behavior in the social environment: theories for social work practice. Dawsonera [Online]. Available at: https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9781118227251/startPage/363 (Accessed: 15 January 2014)

Toseland, R. W. and Rivas, R. F. (2008) An introduction to groupwork practice. 6th edn. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Tuckman, B. W. and Jensen, M. A. (1977). “Stages of small group development revisited”, Group and Organizational Studies, 2(4) pp. 419- 427. Available at: http://www.freewebs.com/group-management/BruceTuckman(1).pdf (Accessed: 30 December 2013)



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