Group Dynamics

Day one in Group Dynamics was quite interesting. The class as a whole was a diverse mix in culture and age. The activity for that session thankfully helped to break the ‘ice’ and become more comfortable with one another. It amazed me, although strangers, how much we actually had in common. My peers became a familiar face I could seek out in the passing of the hall.

Thus, the transition from aggregates to Campbell’s entitative group had begun. In group entitativity, the group perceives themselves as a unified whole in which the members are bonded together. We already chatted and laughed together as if we were already familiar with one another. I was very curious as to what our next meeting would bring. As our group continued to meet every Thursday, I felt a bond grow. We were becoming an educated "quasi-family."

My peers made me feel comfortable around them whereas in other classes I barely knew their face. This bonding reminds me of the group I teach on Sunday's in my church. They are a youth group ranging from ages 13-17 years of age. At first when I started to teach, they listened to the lesson I taught.

As time progressed, they became comfortable enough to let me "view" a little piece of themselves with each meeting. I learned in order to engage them, it was important to listen to what they had to say. Usually at such a young age, they are experiencing Leon Festinger's, "Social Comparison", where there is a need to compare or validate information and inner thoughts. I would warn them of the negative "downward social comparison" some teens would seek to emulate.

These types of teens have low self-esteem of themselves so they tended to hang out with gangs or thugs or kids that did drugs, had premarital sex, and usually ended up in trouble with the law. I am there as teacher and friend, helping to guide them according to how God wants us to live so that life can be full of blessings rather than unnecessary heartaches. It is my hope that my soul investment in them will stimulate a hunger for righteousness, a passion for Love, and the incentive to grow into conscientious productive young adults with morals, values and the tools needed to think critically when making life decisions.

With growth comes change. In the film we watched in class, "The Dead Poets Society," the boys started their own secret club. In the beginning of their secret meetings they would take turns opening the start of the meeting with the opening ritual of reading a Thoreau poem. In Church, we start with the opening ritual of reading a passage from the Bible and praying.

The boys from Welton Academy welcomed the change from the monotony of rigorous rules. Their decision to continue meeting in secret met their individual interpersonal needs buffering each from the stress of constricted rules and mundane living. Any kind of change, namely positive, begins with a small group getting together with a common goal. American scientist Margaret Mead said it best, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Tuchman’s Five Stages of Linear Progression

In the first stage, the orientation or forming stage aka “the milling” stage by Carl Rogers, the group first experiences feelings of curiosity, tension, and other feelings of just ‘not knowing.’

Each person may be curious about the other (or may not be) but there is a certain degree of risk-taking and sharing in the beginning in order for orientation to take place. I can recall the excitement of my first day in Group Dynamics. I knew we would have to form groups to complete assignments but these were complete strangers. Would they sabotage my grade? Would we be able to work together? These are just some of the few questions I had during this milling around stage.

Soon, I would receive my answer. We were given different roles to play demonstrating the characteristic of that particular role with the intention of coming together to brainstorm on how to save the hospital. I was given the role of the Red-neck. I loved going into character, it was fun and we all laughed. It served as a dual purpose for me, it helped relieve stress from life and it also helped me to feel more comfortable with my peers. In the movie, shy Todd Anderson who lives in shadow of his brother at home becomes more confident with becoming a part of the Dead Poet’s Society.

The unorthodox and controversial English teacher, Mr. Keating, introduced his favorite Latin phrase, “Carpe Diem” for seize the day. The boys adapted this indoctrination so much that the next stage, the conflict stage or the storming stage began. Charlie, who is the outgoing extrovert, assumes his new role as the daring leader calling himself, “Norwanda.”

But without the knowledge of the group, he writes a letter to the school newspaper insisting girls be allowed in the school, thereby leaving the infant group vulnerable to the scrutiny of the conservative administrators of Welton Academy. Despite it all, the group did become cohesive. In the norming stage there is a strong sense of “weness.” It was them against Welton Academy. I can remember in my youth having such a strong sense of belonging to a “weness.”

As being part of a group in my Church, I felt the sense of belonging, security, comfort and protection. It helped to elevate my self-esteem. Alone I didn’t feel worthwhile but in this group I felt I was part of a loving “quasi” family who loved me. I had developed such a special bond with them that still today we keep in contact with one another. In the task performing stage, everyone has a role to play to get the job done.

“It seems clear that group members could benefit from a better-developed concept of roles that should be filled in meetings, specifically, the roles that they will fill. Participants should ask themselves what they can contribute from a role perspective.

They should also be conscious of the possibilities created by a group support systems environment, namely that they have an opportunity for both greater role focus and greater role diversity.” (Zigurs; Kozar, p7 para8). Suffice to say, the task performing stage should be the ultimate test to true cohesion. If the group bonded effectively, the performance should be effective but if it were ineffective, the performance will have been a ‘flop.’

This reminds me of the activity where we were made to ‘survive’ in frigid temperatures with items we were to list from the most important to the least. Sad to say, Rescue teams would have looked at my group and saw frozen statues instead due to the inability to get pass the conflict stage. Nobody wanted to work together and everyone thought they were right.

Borman’s threshold of group tension chart would’ve shown a huge upside down bell curve screaming extreme high stress. I wonder if we actually made it to the task performance stage, would we have had some hope in surviving effectively. In the last stage, the dissolution stage is one of sadness and pleasure.

Sadness because goodbyes are said and phone numbers are exchanged. Pleasure because of the opportunity to meet and share the pleasure of each other’s company through thick and thin for the time spent together, a memory that was built together and will be with you forever. Just like in group dynamics, the end will be met with mixed feelings because we really did bond as a group.

We got to know one another, we got to play games, laugh together, and even uplift each other with counsel, and we even got to know a little more about our unique and awesome professor that normally we would not have the pleasure of. In the film, The Dead Poets weren’t given the pleasure of a planned dissolution, Neil took his life before his friends could say goodbye. I can only imagine how devastating this must’ve been for them! A spontaneous dissolution especially in that manner is beyond terrible. No closure, no emotional preparation. Conformity

“There is still some debate about why descriptive norms might affect people’s attitudes and behaviors. On the one hand, people might be uncertain about what to think and do in a situation. Under these circumstances, people might rely on others to determine what is correct, particularly if the reference group is seen to be motivated and competent.

This form of influence-referred to as informational influence-is not an irrational process; rather, it is a functional way of defining a position in the face of limited information. Informational influence is internalized by the individual and, it is assumed, leads to genuine attitude change.” (Hornsey, et al., p319 para7)

The power of conformity is what most teens face today. To smoke or not to smoke, to have sex or not, and the latest amongst tweens (according to the group I teach), to be bisexual or not. Homogeneous pressure is so great in young society that if one doesn’t conform, one runs the risk of being bullied, or teased. It really takes a character of strength and I think stubborn will to not conform and to remain heterogeneous. The activity in class where Matt conformed even if his gut told him he was initially correct when he saw the lines on the board really showed me how powerful conformity can be.

It can change your judgment. I can recall being about eighteen years of age drinking a malt beer called “Crazy Horse” because my friend did it. I think I did want to drink it, but if she weren’t around would I have drunk it? The fact that Matt changed his mind and agreed with us during the conformity activity really opened my eyes and made me think, if I were in his situation, would I have conformed? I’m not sure I liked the activity because it made me question myself.

This activity showed me that potentially, conformity can happen at any age. A person probably has to have a significant amount of will power and life experience not to conform. On the other hand, conformity can be a useful when the event to conform to is for self-improvement, of course self-awareness of the conforming event is vital for your decision otherwise you may be blind sighted. But ultimately it is a decision, to conform or not to conform is the question; the final choice is ours to make.

References

Margaret Mead. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/margaretme100502.html http://www.brainyquote.com/citation/quotes/quotes/m/margaretme100502.html#e5AoJamWyT6FIM4p.99

Hornsey, Mathew J., Louise Majkut, Deborah J. Terry, and Blake M. McKimmie. "On being loud and proud: Non-conformity and counter-conformity to group norms." proquest 42 (2003): 35-319. Proquest Psychology Journals. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. .

Zigurs, Ilze, and Kenneth A. Kozar. "An exploratory study of roles in computer-supported groups." proquest 18.3 (1994): 22+. ABI/INFORM Complete. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. .