Saturday, April 7, 2012

WORKING TOGETHER TOWARDS A COMMON GOAL:What I’ve learned about small group

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I usually have a tough time remembering names. If my group was more than the five people that made up the team, I’m sure that it would’ve been difficult to remember them all. However, considering my group consisted of only five, it was easier to remember the names. Also, I noticed that whenever I entered the classroom, I would immediately search for the faces of my group members to see if they had made it to class. I believe that we all shared that mutual awareness. I noticed how eye contact was made when one of us entered the classroom. It was a way of acknowledging one another, and making sure that each member was present that evening. There was a time when I was absent from class, and one of my group members sent me an e-mail the following day to remind me of an exam due the following week. I thanked her for that, and wondered if we were not part of the same group, or if we did not usually sit near one another, would she have been aware of my absence?


I know that the reason we look to find each familiar face of our group is because we all share the same goal. We all want to get an ‘A’ on our group project. We definitely fit the characteristics of a ‘secondary group’ because we are working together towards achieving that goal. Performance and coordination of activity is needed for a group to reach their specific goal or objective. In my reading I learned that ‘secondary groups’ are called this because they meet what are called secondary needs; which are needs for control and achievement. Furthermore, whether our demonstration of acknowledging one another was done knowingly or not, we did so to make sure we could count on each other to reach our individual need, as well as the group’s goal.


At our first meeting to discuss the group project, it took some time to get warmed up to each other. We tried to get familiar by going around the group and giving a brief introduction of ourselves. For example, we talked about what we majored in, when we will be graduating and our interests. It was sort of awkward at first, because we of course were strangers. Some people are shy and need time to open up to those they don’t know. It can be uncomfortable sometimes to work with someone whom you are not familiar, let alone a whole group. Actually, I think what it comes down to is, many of us just do not know how to communicate with one another. Therefore, students hate to form groups. I use to be one of them. I dreaded the idea of getting into a group with people I did not know. I observed that two out of the five members of our group are obviously friendly outside of the classroom. I recall at a few meetings, they would get sidetracked and go off on their own private conversation. I gathered that they sometimes did this because they were in the beginning comfortable with each other and it was uncomfortable for them to share thoughts with people they did not know. When this happened it would hinder the communication between members of the group, and cause an upset in the groups progress. ‘Grouphate’ can really hurt a group. I have to admit I fell victim to ‘grouphate’. In connection with not knowing how to communicate with each other, it can result in the failure of the group. However, once we learned to listen to one another and communicate more freely we began to enjoy our discussions. The group meetings became more of a gathering of friendly classmates rather than hurriedly, uncomfortable encounters with strangers. Once we got passed the communication issue, we were able to focus on our project. I no longer loathe groups and I think the members of our group do not have that problem anymore either.


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Our group got off to a slow start but by the third and fourth meetings, I felt secure about our progress. I was secure that we all wanted a nice grade on our project. I guess you can say we all have an interdependent goal, a characteristic learned is found in groups. Without an interdependent goal we would not be a group. If we want to succeed we all have to try our best to succeed. During our meetings we made sure that each and every one of us knew what was expected of them. We went over each member’s task to make sure all was understood and to clarify any misunderstandings. We did this to insure that each individual would do their part so the group would not fail.


When our group met each week I think each person tried their best to contribute. Sometimes it took a few minutes to get everyone focused. Members of the group would talk among themselves about something unrelated to the topic as I mentioned earlier. It would take another member in the group to try and bring them back to the task at hand. It helped our group to have one or two of its members to have the characteristic of a ‘participant-observer’. ‘Participant-observers’ are able to stay active in a group discussion, as well as observe what is going on during the discussion. Such a person has the ability to interject when the group seems to be stuck and suggest ideas to help the situation. Others have the ability to contribute to the group’s discussion with ideas, but do not know what to do when the group has a problem. I noticed if the group had a good meeting then everyone was able to give input on some level or another. On the other hand if there was a problem, with communication or if some members seemed not to be as enthusiastic as others, then they weren’t any help with problems of that sort.


On a few occasions during our group meeting, some members would contribute very little to the discussion. When asked if they had any ideas or how they felt about someone else’s suggestion, they would go along with whatever everyone else agreed upon. Also, if an e-mail with ideas or outline regarding our upcoming meeting went out to the group, it would be obvious that they did not read the information to prepare for our discussion. Some days they would be content with just listening to everyone else in the group and everyone else carrying the workload. This ‘social loafing’ is very discouraging. When someone has this characteristic they are happy just as long as the other members of the group does well. In this case, the ‘social loafer’ does well also, rewarded by the other group members’ efforts. This type of thing did not happen all the time in our group discussions, but I did notice it occasionally. As mentioned before, thankfully one of the group members, who were definitely a ‘participant-observer’, would help with the quality of how each member contributed to the team.


Overall, I think that we had a good group. Of course there was some things that needed to be worked out, but that was because we as students were learning how to work within a small group. The textbook and class lectures helped me understand small groups a little better. I now can work within a group whether it is at school or work, and not be a grouphater, or social loafer. Sometimes I would fall into these categories because I lacked communication skills. Sometimes I would just not listen to the discussion, and in turn go into my own private thoughts. I now can be a more valuable member of a group and with the help of the teachings in class and observations of my own group, I can try to be an individual who engages actively in discussions, but at the same time observe and evaluate the needs of the group and its processes. I watched how the group, myself included, grew from a group of people who felt intimidated by working together because they did not know what to expect from one another; into a group where its members was conscience of one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and worked together to overcome whatever it took to do their best as a group. My experience working within the group was not as painful as I thought it would be. I had a few unpleasant experiences working within groups, one of which was during my first quarter a Berkeley College. The course where I had to do a group project was Business Organization. We had to do a group paper as well as a group presentation. The whole process was so difficult. We had one member who was so stubborn and closed-minded and another that was lazy and never made it to our group meetings. When it came time to gather all materials and information for the project, this member did not do their share, and others of the group had to pick up their workload. We received an ‘A’ on that project, which shocked us all. However, it was a very frustrating experience. I think everyone in Berkeley should enroll in a group dynamics course before taking any business courses. It may have helped lift the ignorance of the characteristics and issues that occur when working within small groups. We may have been able to understand why we could not communicate properly, and why some people could not work up to the expectations of the group. I now can take what I’ve learned and apply it to future group projects, thanks to Social Science 105NN (Group Dynamics).





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