Learning in groups

Discover how together everyone achieves more with this advice from Lesley Phillips

Taking part in group activities (such as meetings, discussions, problem solving workshops, site visits, coaching and mentoring sessions) gives us a great opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and experience of others.

Groups and Teams

All teams are groups, but not all groups are teams. Only when a group of individuals perform well together, work towards common goals, and complement each other in terms of knowledge and skill can they be truly called a team.

study group
Learning in groups can be stimulating and challenging, but only if the group is well managed and follows some basic rules of good practice, right from the start!

  • Goals must be clearly understood, and timelines agreed by all participants. The group should decide in advance how to manage group members that do not fulfil their obligations, for whatever reason.
  • A supportive climate is needed where individuals are non-judgemental and willing to learn from one another. They must be honest and sensitive to socio-cultural differences within the group.
  • Each person must be able to contribute. Rotate roles so that everyone has an opportunity to lead, time-keep or record.
  • Keep a record of what each person is going to do and by when. Assign small tasks to everyone, and then hold regular meetings to make decisions and reach consensus about conclusions as the project progresses.
  • When it comes to presenting reports ensure that all members participate, so that the team can demonstrate its success together.
  • Do an internet search and find out about the work of Meredith Belbin on team roles. Which team roles do you think you would fulfil the best? (If you have internet access try the link below).
  • http://www.businessballs.com/personalitystylesmodels.htm#belbin team roles descriptions

Learning Groups and Conflict

In most groups conflict is likely to arise at some stage, and if managed effectively it should not have a harmful or negative influence. There is a theory that groups go through four development stages before they become a fully functioning team:

  • Forming (the polite, awkward stage)
  • Storming (conflict stage when group members are establishing their position or role in the group)
  • Norming (group members start to recognise each others strengths and start focussing on the task)
  • Performing (only now the group is a fully functioning and cooperative team!)

Dealing with Conflict in a Team Situation:

Conflict can originate from a variety of causes:

  • Emotions
  • Needs
  • Msunderstandings
  • Power
  • Beliefs
  • Threat

Whatever the cause, conflict should be managed so that the team’s performance is not negatively affected. This of course is easier said than done, because most of us naturally prefer to avoid conflict by distancing ourselves, or we completely back down to the more forceful party, or compromise to the extent that we are left feeling resentful and bitter.

The best way to deal with conflict is to collaborate so that true consensus can be reached. Here the conflicting parties separate the people from the problem or issue, and discuss options in a non threatening manner.
This may involve an outside mediator with good negotiation skills to assist the participants to move forward from their deadlock.

Below is a summary of different conflict outcomes, and some management strategies.

Conflict strategies


Oct 2013

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