Working with a new group of adolescents could make me doubt Mead's ideas around groups achieving anything. How they get to be the 'thoughtful, committed citizens' that 'can change the world' could seem an impossibility. If it wasn't for Tuckman's (1965) group theory working in the past, I might not believe it.
Instead I ask myself where is the group now and what do I have to do to promote group development so it can move through the stages below:
Forming > Storming > Norming > Performing
The group today was certainly forming and storming. The behaviour of the group was not self regulating in any way. New people tested boundaries and adult workers had to be constantly vigilant and behave in a quite authoritarian manner to assert and maintain those boundaries. Some characters dominated the session and few people took any responsibility for their actions while others opted out.
So we stopped the session and gathered everyone together. We talked about what they wanted from the session and what their and our expectations were and recognised the fact that it was a new group that had to acclimatise to the environment and each other. We gave everyone the chance to contribute but did not force anyone who was not comfortable and who could contribute on paper more easily. We talked about the consequences of actions from the curtailing of activities by either removal of the person or the shortening of the session. And the expansion of the range of available activities according the interest of the group and the ability of individuals to take on responsibility.
We have a long way to go...from forming and storming to norming and performing. And from experience I know that its not a straight line but a zig zag and overlapping line where one day in one activity we will reach the performing stage and then in the next five minutes regress back with a comment or a misunderstanding to the storming stage. We have a long way to go. But its exciting because now its all potential. There's a long way to go. Who knows what they will achieve and how they will change the world.
Tuckman, B. W. (1965) ‘Developmental sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.