This essay is going to reflect on learning gained from a group task carried out in the unit lectures. I will explore group work theories, collaborative and inter-disciplinary 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.
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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 professions, 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. This was evident during the group work as the group worked collaboratively to share ideas and tasks were allocated to each member according to competencies and mutual understanding.
Salas et al. (2012) states that, group work started from the perspective of people working in partnership for a common goal. The theories of group work later materialised in regard to the dynamics of group work and the they provide an understanding of human behaviour when people are working in groups. 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 Tuckman and Jensen (1977), the forming stage is when the group members are establishing common interests and get to know one another with the desire to be part of the group. 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.
Tuchman and Jensen (1977) state that, storming stage may involve competing for ideas and perspectives, rules are developed and members may confront one another. Conflict may emerge and when unresolved, it can inhibit the team’s progress. There is then the norming stage when members take roles and responsibilities and an agenda is established. This stage involves belonging, growth and control. The performing stage is when the group is functional and tasks are implemented and evaluated. Finally, the adjourning stage involves the goals and objectives fulfilled and task completed.
Tuckman and Jensen’s (1977) model of group formation can be applied to different settings and groups and it is easy to use. The model is flexible and can be applied regardless of type of group or task. However the model has no clear demarcation of the stages and is a linear format although the first four stages may not be in sequence. It does not explain time spent in each stage or if the stage can be repeated as some of the stages can recur for example norming and perfoming stages. (Halverson 2008)
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. I was in favour for a presentation using Power Point, however the majority of the group voted for a role play which I thought was not going to address all the information due to time allocated for the group to present. I was also a bit anxious for failing the task as the group had elected me to take the lead on the role play. At that time I felt that the team wanted me to do most of the task and I rejected the ideas they were putting forward. I think I did this unconsciously because I realised my actions later on when my group members gave feedback.
Belbin’s (2010) work identified roles in teams which each offer positive contributions to team working. The roles include co-ordinator, evaluator, maintainer, innovator, shaper, implementer, expert, investigator, team and completer, 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 of being inflexible with ideas of others.
The feedback brought awareness on how I work with others and will help me in my practice. I think I took the role of an implementer who turns the team concepts into practical actions and plans however, inflexible and somewhat reluctant to change. However reflecting on my experience from my previous placement when I was working on a project to enable young mothers to gain independent skills, the project failed because I lost interest as a result of constraint in obtaining the resources. I think at that time I took the role of an investigator.
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 think in future I need to be flexible and think of other ways of working around the plan for the benefit of the service users. I should also seek supervision with my manager to discuss such situations as it can provide best possible support. 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 of working with teams or groups in an organisation. They suggested that, 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, resources and leadership structures. I abandoned a project which was going to benefit the young mothers and in a way the community as well. Although this was due to organisational constraints, as a future social worker, I should try to balance responsibilities in a way that supports well-informed decision making, using professional judgement and accountability (British Association of Social Workers 2012).
Salas et a.l (2012) state that, in order for me to be grounded in theories of group work, I need to formulate theoretical frameworks that are in alignment with my perspectives and inclinations. To achieve this I need to have knowledge of the strength and weaknesses of the frameworks I use. This will help me to select theories that are appropriate to the situation.
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 effective interpersonal skills. As a social work student, in order to work collaboratively, I need to develop skills and knowledge in decision making, effective communication and task coordination and the ability to learn from others and embrace change (D’Amour et al 2005). This is imperative as I will be working in teams with other professionals or agencies.
From the unit group work, I have learnt that mutual understanding and collaboration is vital for teamwork to be effective. Teamwork requires respecting each other’s values, beliefs and viewpoints and also self awareness of my own beliefs, values and perspectives (Hall 2005).
I also now have an understanding of the importance of effective communication, participative decision making and accepting ideas of other when working in a team. The group work enabled me to develop skills in sharing of ideas and also how to relay and support my own viewpoint with confidence.
According to Crawford (2012), I must have an understanding of my own professional identity as a social worker so as to develop confidence in myself and work with other professionals effectively.
The HCPC (2012) states that, I must “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), as values are internalised, they can be invisible to other team members thereby creating obstacles in inter-professional working. As a result, I must make my professional values clear to other professionals I work with and also have an understanding of their values.
The College of Social Work (2014) states that, as a social worker, I need to develop skills, competencies and the ability to recognise the challenges and dynamics of team-working and also have an awareness of team cultures so as to be able to work effectively in a multi-disciplinary team.
The group work task and the feedback I received from my colleagues enabled me to develop awareness on how I work with others and I also managed to learn about my strengths and weaknesses. For example taking the role of an implementer I was able to execute a plan however resistant to change. I have also learnt that I need to acknowledge and appreciate the differences and adjust, adapt, and mirror interpersonal interactions when interacting with others. In future, I need to take into consideration other people’s ideas as there are different approaches to tasks and also appreciate other people’s experiences and values especially when working with professional of different background as mine.
The College of Social Work (2014) Roles and functions of social workers in England http://www.tcsw.org.uk/uploadedfiles/thecollege/_collegelibrary/policy/rolesfunctionsadvicenote.pdf
D’Amour, D, Ferrada-Videla, M, Rodriguez, L, & Beaulieu, M 2005, ‘The conceptual basis for interprofessional collaboration: core concepts and theoretical frameworks’,Journal Of Interprofessional Care, 19, pp. 116-131, CINAHL Plus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 August 2014.
Claire B. Halverson, S. Aqeel Tirmizi
Effective Multicultural Teams: Theory and Practice: theory and practice
British Association of Social Workers (2012) The Code of Ethics for Social Work :Statement of Principles
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