This group was set up as a task group, to design a poster to advertise the set up of a new group. The group were given 15 minutes to design the poster. When the group first entered the room and read the task, the group started to focus on what needed to be done, the group progressed well however when the task started to get more involved, it was clear that some voices were being heard, and some being ignored.
It would have been necessary at this point to introduce ground rules. However on reflection and given the direction that the group took it would have been a more productive step to introduce some basic ground rules as ‘’ groups run better when there is enough order and structure to protect and enhance the process’’ (Cloud H, Townsend S,J, 2003:137) it also provides a starting point for conversation to be developed, and the facilitator may be able to gage the needs of the group through developing discussion. (K Sapin 2008) When devising ground rules, the group should be involved.
Ground rules can set the basis of how the group should act, and they also provide a core central value base to be observed (Shuman S 2005) it provides a platform of what is acceptable and what is not. So to involve the group gives a sense of ownership, and we know that this is vital for a group to engage and develop. Some basic ground rules can consist of
Only one person at time talking Encourage full participation Keep discussion on topic, and focused Listen Respect Full attention required, at all times. Have fun Through introducing ground rules at this point, it would have set a standard of behaviour which is necessary for the group to progress and achieve the task. The goal would have been to get the group to commit to using them, and to get the members to set new expectations of how to interact with each other, this enables the group to share responsibility for improving its process.’’
(Shuman S 2005:26) Through introducing ground rules at this stage I would have liked to have seen more consideration for others, certain members of the group were being ignored, there were also several conversations going on at the same time, the ground rules could have addressed both these issues, and could have been referred back to right the way through the duration of the group. 1)’’ Observe behaviour
2) Infer meaning- why is it happening. 3) Decide whether, how and why to intervene 4) Describe behaviour, and test for different views 5) Share your inference (conclusion) and test for different views 6) Help the group decide whether to change its behaviour’’ (Shuman 2005:28)
Deciding how and when to intervene I would have looked at the six bullet points above set out by Shuman , and from that developed a strategy involving the group, however acting with a low level inference. The way in which the facilitator thinks during the group process affects the group and through staying neutral it allows the facilitator to stay impartial, it is labelled as a low level risk because the facilitator is careful when inferring, as opposed to the high level risk where the facilitator jumps to conclusion without a thorough diagnosis of the situation.
How the facilitator sees the group, and the dymamics inside the group effects how they act, the aim of facilitation is to operate within the low level inference. (Schuman 2005) To conclude, within this situation where members of the group are not listening to each other, where several conversations are going on at a time, it would be important to locate why the group is acting like this, finding the root problem could be beneficial as it may help prevent further disruption.
Through observing the behaviour and inferring meaning, it is clear that because no plan of action was developed, the group are unsure of what the task is, and how they are going to achieve it. As a facilitator this is a low level inference, a high level inference at this stage would be to conclude that the group were rude, with no consideration for others. How we decipher a situation reflects how we act within a group, the high level inference could potentially put the future of the group at risk.
By inferring impartially and accurately, it affects the way in which we publicly announce our concern to the group,( Shuman 2005) so intervening to raise discussion on whether they think the way they are acting is productive, is a good start. Using ground rules that the group decided shifts the responsibility of the effectiveness of the work over to the group.
This empowers the group, as hopefully it would raise concern that it all depends on them to achieve the task. This is also an opportunity to include new ground rules that can be developed by the group. The second point of call would be to ask the group if they are sure they all understand what the task is and how they are going to do it. Then if the group were unsure, either the facilitator or another group member could explain to the members of the group who are unsure exactly what the task is, and what we are going to do to achieve it.
When the group have a comprehensive understanding of the task, and of how they are going to achieve it as a group, I would expect that the group members would be reminded of the ground rules and take responsibility for putting them into practice. When faced with participants who are not engaging in the task and not listening. You can challenge the behaviour, taking into consideration that some reasons for not engaging in the task could be as simple as, for example the task has no appeal, or it could be to do with the group themselves. ‘’Numerous cues signal a groups failure to thrive.
These include: Group members verbal and non verbal expressions of boredom A sense of lethargy in the groups communication or activity Primarily content related discussion that is devoid of emotional material.’’ (Brandler S & Roman P,C, 1999:69.) We know that within groups it is hard for every member to be an equal, especially in this group where roles have already been developed, certain members will carry more influence than others, but trying to re assign these roles for equal participation could potentially cause problems. In this group there is one individual who usually has a lot of influence and is always participating. Watching the video it is clear that his usual role is being taken over by other members of the group.
The responses from Jeff towards the task were negative; this may have been because he was lost i.e. his normal place in the group was being taken over by other members. His usual power within the group was not as prominent and because of this it may have affected his willingness to accept the task, the facilitator recognising this could have done several things, by directing questions towards the withdrawing participant it directs focus back on to him, through doing this it may have nudged him back into the group discussion.
At the same time as doing this the facilitator would have to be careful not to single anyone out, or to make the rest of the group withdraw. Although there is nothing wrong with other people taking the lead and roles changing, when these roles do change, the facilitator to protect the interests of the group could support the withdrawing individual through acting impartially and offering gentle support.
There is always a possibility of changing the task if the group consensus was that it wasn’t of any interest, unsuitable etc. How ever as a facilitator and a participating member of this group, the task itself was not the problem, the group dynamics could have been affected by the environment, including time of day, and I have no doubt that because the group knew each other and the roles that each person had, that other people were challenging this individual for competitive reasons, i,e because this person is very vocal, and consider him to be a nuisance.
As a facilitator observing this through behaviour, and inferring meaning, the intervention would be made to protect the future of the group, but also their effectiveness to work together, but also to stop any members of the group from deciding to revolt against the task, because there are risks that the rest of the group will withdraw as well. By intervening with this issue you would hope that by re engaging the group members back into the task it would empower the participant to play an active role within the group, thus providing active refreshment to the rest of the group.
Facilitation is always about creating a fair and constructive learning environment even if that means sharing our power as facilitators with the group members, and so when making an intervention it should be in the best interest of the group, taking into consideration the ‘’diagnosis intervention cycle’’ (Shuman 2005) which demonstrates the importance of assessing a situation comprehensively, through diagnosing the situation accurately there is less risk of operating with a high level risk. When an intervention has to be made the ground rules can be used as the basis to create discussion. However more importantly the effects the ground rules and the process the participants would go through making them carries huge benefit, it encourages the group to take the lead.
The background the group has coming into this session has affected the effectiveness of the group, as a participant analysing where and why how I would have intervened, I ask myself the question why I did not intervene during the task. The answer is because I have no or limited influence within the group, this demonstrates the importance of power, and whether it can be shared out equally. This has also made me think about the difficulties of being an equal when the power is dominated by other members of the group. ‘’Facilitation is creating a space within which people can empower them selves’’ (Hunter D, et al 1996:101) Word count – 2308
References Cloud H, Townsend S,J, 2003: Making small groups work: what every small group leader needs to know. Orange California published by Yates & Yates. Shuman S 2005, I.A.F. handbook of group facilitation:best practices from the leading organization in facilitation. San Francisco California: Jossey-Bass K sapin 2008 essential skills for youth work practice London sage Hunter D, et al 1996, The facilitation of groups Hampshire Gower publishing limited,) Harrison R & Wise C 2005 Working with Young People, London sage