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Friday, May 24, 2013

Games we play: Roles in groups

Individuals informal roles in a group

As mentioned this week in class, one of the reasons for the interest and dominance of Reality TV on our screens at the moment is the fascination people have with how groups operate and how people act in groups. As an individual we play many roles in our life depending on what group/s we participate in at any one time. Many of us play quite different roles, depending on whether it is a family, social, work or recreational type of group. In groups we acquire informal roles of being a leader, others we may be the organiser, joker, information givers, disgruntled etc

The purpose of this posting on group theory is to give some guidance to help you observe the informal roles individuals play in groups, in particular, the group you have joined to undertake the Groups Task assessment item for the course. These informal roles are in addition to the formal roles of leader, recorder, time-keeper and reporter we discussed in the 'Setting up the Group" posting.

Task-Oriented Roles (Tasking behaviour)

The following are group roles which relate to the completion of the group's task. They are: 
  • Information-seeker: Asks for information about the task.
  • Opinion-seeker: Asks for the input from the group about its values.
  • Information-giver: Offers facts or generalization to the group.
  • Opinion-giver: States his or her beliefs about a group issue.
  • Elaborator: Explains ideas within the group, offers examples to clarify ideas.
  • Coordinator: Shows the relationships between ideas.
  • Orienter: Shifts the direction of the group's discussion.
  • Evaluator-critic: Measures group's actions against some objective standard.
  • Energizer: Stimulates the group to a higher level of activity.
  • Initiator-contributor: Generates new ideas.

    Social Roles (Helping behaviour)
    Groups also have members who play certain social roles. They are:
  • Harmonizer: Mediates differences between group members.
  • Compromiser: Moves group to another position that is favored by all group members.
  • Gatekeeper/expediter: Keeps communication channels open.
  • Standard Setter: Suggests standards or criteria for the group to achieve.
  • Group observer: Keeps records of group activities and uses this information to offer

  •      feedback to the group.
  • Follower: Goes along with the group and accepts the group's ideas.
  • Encourager: Praises the ideas of others.

  • Individualistic Roles (Dysfunctional behaviour)
    These roles place the group member above the group and are destructive to the group. They are:
  • Blocker: Resists movement by the group.
  • Recognition seeker: Calls attention to himself or herself.
  • Self-confessor: Seeks to disclose nongroup related feelings or opinions.
  • Dominator: Asserts control over the group by manipulating the other group members.
  • Help seeker: Tries to gain the sympathy of the group.
  • Special interest pleader: Uses stereotypes to assert his or her own prejudices.
  • Aggressor: Attacks other group members, deflates the status of others, and other 
  •      aggressive behavior.
      During the Group Task every member will be asked at least once to step outside of the group for a short time and become an observer and use the 'Group observation' worksheet to 'map' the nature of the participation and decision making in the group.

        Thursday, May 23, 2013

        Norming in a group

        The address for the Socialsense blog
        The Thebarton Senior College Moodle
        Course Calendar for your time management

        Contact Malcolm at

        Norming is normal for a group

        Group norms are a set of informal rules (sometimes written, sometimes unspoken and often unwritten) that govern the behaviours of individuals in a group. Group norms vary based on the group and issues important to the group. Without group norms, individuals would have no understanding of how to act as an accepted member of the group.

        All groups whether intentionally or unintentionally, no matter how small or big, develop norms. Norms relate to ways of behavior, roles and actions which become normal for a group.
        Groups may adopt norms in two different ways. One form of norm adoption is the formal method, where norms are written down and implemented (e.g. laws, rules). However, social norms are much more likely to be informal, and emerge gradually (e.g. Bikies wearing leather jackets etc)

        Norms can exist as both formal and informal rules of behavior. Both types of norms are described more clearly below:

        Informal: Informal norms are not necessarily rules set in writing, but are more so just behaviours that people follow in the group so as to be part of the group, be accepted by the group and help the group function. These informal norms, if broken, do not invite punishments or sanctions usually, but instead encourage reprimands and warnings.

        Formal: Formal norms are generally rules that if broken will result in some form of punishment. In a group these are formally agreed to ways of behaving which the group expects to be followed. In some groups the breaking of these rules may result in punishment (fines, ridicule) but in most group the breaking of these black and white rules may result in exclusion from the group as the major way of enforcing the norms.

        Generally formal norms are considered to be essential to the effective functioning of the group and must be followed by group members, whilst informal norms are less important in terms of conformity – although desirable for group identity and coherence.

        There is great pressure on group members to conform to group norms. Conforming to group norms usually ensure acceptance of the member in the group and the view that the group is functioning effectively and cooperating. If a person does not conform to group norms they are considered as being dysfunctional and deviant as a group member. If a person continues to break formal norms in particular, it may result in exclusion of the individual from the group for the sake of group functioning and the groups coherence.

        Changing norms
        Once firmly established, a norm becomes a social fact, and thus, a part of the group's operational structure, and is difficult to change. With that being said, newcomers to a group can change a group's norms. However, it is much more likely that the new individual entering the group will adopt the group's norms, values, and perspectives, rather than the other way around.

        Monday, May 20, 2013

        Deciding on decisions

        Decision making in groups

        Following on from the last Socialsense posting, the next task is to decide how to make decisions. How do you make decisions when you have decided how to make decisions is always an interesting question.

        Task 3: Deciding on a decision making method.

        * A group process to get thinking underway: Brainstorming
        An initial decision-making task is brainstorming. When brainstorming, group members are encouraged to generate as many ideas about a particular topic as they can.

        The brainstorming process may include the group:
        1. Define and agree the objective.
        2. Brainstorm ideas and suggestions having agreed a time limit.
        3. Categorise/condense/combine/refine.
        4. Assess/analyse effects or results.
        5. Prioritise options/rank list as appropriate.
        6. Agree action and timescale.
        7. Control and monitor follow-up.
        Group members should be encouraged to say anything that comes to mind when brainstorming. Every idea is written down and judgments about ideas are saved until later, when the group returns to all of the ideas and selects those that are most useful.

        Some ideas to aid brainstorming
        There are many ways to construct your brainstorming when looking at an issue or just trying to get a list of “things”. Here are just two of them, feel free to make up your own processes to get eth job done!

        * P/M/I (Plus/Minuses/Interesting)
        Draw up three columns on a piece of paper. Head them 'Plus', 'Minus', and 'Interesting'.
        In the column underneath 'Plus', write down all the positive results of taking the action. Underneath 'Minus' write down all the negative effects. In the 'Interesting' column write down the implications and possible outcomes of taking the action, whether positive, negative, or uncertain.
        By this stage it may already be obvious whether or not you should implement the decision. If it is not, consider each of the points you have written down and assign a positive or negative score to it appropriately. The scores you assign may be quite subjective.
        Once you have done this, add up the score. A strongly positive score shows that an action should be taken, a strongly negative score that it should be avoided.

        · Blue: Processes, how can we do this, objective, logical,
        · Red: Emotion
        · Yellow: Positive
        · Green: Creative thinking - possibilities
        · White: Information
        · Black: Negatives
        The meeting may start with everyone assuming the Blue hat to discuss how the meeting will be conducted and to develop the goals and objectives. The discussion may then move to Red hat thinking in order to collect opinions and reactions to the problem. This phase may also be used to develop constraints for the actual solution such as who will be affected by the problem and/or solutions. Next the discussion may move to the (Yellow then) Green hat in order to generate ideas and possible solutions. Next the discussion may move between White hat thinking as part of developing information and Black hat thinking to develop criticisms of the solution set. Because everyone is focused on a particular approach at any one time, the group tends to be more collaborative than if one person is reacting emotionally (Red hat) while another person is trying to be objective (White hat) and still another person is being critical of the points which emerge from the discussion (Black hat).

        * Sticky note grouping

        Everyone writes their response (to a question, issue, problem requiring a decision) on separate sticky notes and then the group arranges the notes on the wall or table into "like" categories. The group reviews the categories of responses and decides which one/s are the most popular response/s.

        * The final decision

        There are many ways that a group can make a final decision, decide on a solution, or come to agreement. Some of the most popular ways of making the decision include:
        Consensus: The group members all agree on the final decision through discussion and debate.

        Decision by negative minority: The group holds a vote for the most unpopular idea and eliminates it. The group repeats the process until only one idea is left.

        Majority Vote: The decision is based on the opinion of the majority of its members (50/50, 40/60 etc).

        Decision by sub-committee: members of the group form a sub-committee to work through a decision and bring it back to the group.

        Decision by Leader: The group gives the final decision to its leader.

        Ranking: the group facilitator asks each group member to individually rank all of the options from lowest to highest priority. Finally, the facilitator computes an average score for each idea. The lowest score is the highest priority for the group.

        Arbitration: An external body or person makes a decision for the group.

        * Decision review: An initial decision can always be changed before social action is taken.

        The inquiry of the decided topic/issue may come to a dead end or a new idea may be considered a better way to go. As long as there is still time to finish the task, be prepared to reconsider a decision and change if the group agrees. This is referred to as the process of decision review which should be in place early in the group’s life.
        It is good practice in fact for the group to build in this review process into their time together by asking on a regular basis the question; "How is the inquiry going and are we still happy with our decision?"

        Sunday, May 19, 2013

        Being groupies

        The address for the Socialsense blog
        The Thebarton Senior College Moodle

        Contact Malcolm at

        The study of Group Dynamics

        An important part of learning in Society and Cultures courses is working in a group. Considering society is basically about groups, it is important that you learn about how groups operate. Although I will provide some theory on group dynamics in class, the best way to learn about groups and how they work is to participate in a group. For this reason the course contains a compulsory Group task worth 10%. For this assignment you are to work in a group on the task of selecting an ethical cause and developing some type of social action.

        Here is an excerpt from the assignment sheet.

        Students undertake a group activity. A group activity consists of three equally important parts:
        1. group inquiry, planning, and evaluation
        2. collaborative social action
        3. an individual contribution.

        You will be are allocated to a group to collaboratively work on an inquiry into a social cause of the groups choice relevant to ‘Social Ethics’. Your group needs to negotiate the chosen cause with me before working on your inquiry together as a group. Your skills at collaboration are as important as the inquiry process.
        Your group is to analyse the findings of your inquiry and plan appropriate social action to share awareness relevant to their social ethics inquiry. You must clearly describe the social ethics and ethical questions involved in your cause.

        For this assignment you have been placed into random groups, with the only criteria of selection being gender balance.

        The groups are:
        Group 1: Sandra, Narad, Dion, Abdul and Thuy.
        Group 2: Laurianne, Tayla, Sam, Osman and Krystal.
        Group 3: Jackeline, Nikol, Kira, George and Josh.
        Group 4: Maria, Matthew, Brooklyn, Amina and Sang.

        To get started in your group, here is some information about establishing a group.

        * Establishing functional roles
        1. When your group first forms you are to nominate/select/elect the following:
        a. A leader to guide the group during these intiital meetings. Later you may wish to select a leader of the group for the rest of the activity or have a different leader each time the group works together.
        2. A recorder who write down the process, discussion and decisions for the group. This role is to be rotated so that all members have a turn at this role.
        3. A  reporter who is to provide a summary to the class of the progress, discussion and decisions of the group. This role is to be rotated so that all members have a turn at this role.
        4. A time/task keeper is to provide checks to the group process  - to make sure the group is doing as required in the time allocated. If the group is less than four for a session, the leader naturally takes on this role. This role is to be rotated so that all members have a turn at this role.

        * Primary and Secondary groups theory
        Considering the group is a class and formed randomly, it is called a secondary group. Here is some theory on the classification of group types.

        The terms "primary" and "secondary" are used in reference to the function and interactions of a group and the group’s importance to the members of the group.

        A primary group is typically a small social group whose members share close, personal, enduring relationships. These groups are marked by members' concern for one another, in shared activities and culture. Examples include family, childhood friends, and highly influential social groups. Primary groups play an important role in the development of personal identity. Relationships formed in primary groups are often long-lasting and goals in themselves. They also are often psychologically comforting to the individuals involved and provide a source of support.

        People in a secondary group interact on a less personal level than in a primary group, and their relationships are temporary rather than long lasting. A secondary group is usually based on interests and activities. They are where many people can meet close friends or people they would just call acquaintances. Secondary groups are groups in which one exchanges explicit commodities, such as labour for wages, services for payments, etc. Examples of these would be employment, class group, etc.
        Despite these clear definitions, sometimes the difference between the two can be blurred and over time one group can change classification i.e. a secondary group turning into a primary group due to ...