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Small Group Process Reflection Paper

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Small Group Process Paper

Phyllis Braxton

St. Catherine University and University of St. Thomas


Working in small groups has become the heart and soul of creating new products and synergy. According to Hutchinson, a crucial dimension of social work is accomplished through the use of group work. She further acknowledges that there are numerous benefits of small groups. Being back in graduate school has led to my own participation in a variety of different groups. Small groups are created for various reasons. The group for this course was created for a specific purpose. This kind of group is also known as a task group. My colleagues: Bridget, Sarah, Dacey and I came together to work towards a common goal – that of educating our peers about Developmental Theory. The group was successful commensurate to the definition outlined by Hutchinson as being created with the express purpose of completing a specific task. We did that!

Group Structure

Another component of small groups is dimensions of group structure. We were a formed group because we had a defined purposed. In addition, we were also a time-limited group. Our termination was set and expected once we achieved our goal of presenting Developmental Theory to the class. The membership determination was a combination of both open and closed group structure. While there was a strongly suggested limit of the size, there was an open invitation to anyone interested in the exploration of Developmental theory.

Group Composition

        Our group had both commonalities and differences. The homogeneity of the group showed up in several of our values, beliefs and identities as: graduate students, desire to be social work practitioners, heterosexuals, gender conforming, females, believers in a higher power, sense of humor, direct communicators and sense of social justice. Our facets of departure are: age, relationship status, family make-up, family responsibilities, geographical locations both birth place and currently residing, beliefs about religion and spiritual, race, socioeconomic status, conflict styles and personality type as assessed by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Group Processes

        In exhibit 11.4 in the Hutchinson text, she recognizes six different stage models of group development. The model I feel best captures the framework our group experienced was Northern’s. It is one of the models that does not draw attention to conflict, yet it reframes conflict as exploring options and problem solving. There is however a different model of group development that I favor and look to when creating a group or when accessing my own involvement in a group. M. Scott Peck, author of myriad books, but specifically referring to his book The Different Drum claims any group of strangers coming together to create a community goes through four distinct and predictable phases: pseudocommunity, chaos, emptiness and true community.

        The essential dynamic of pseudocommunity is conflict avoidance. Members are extremely pleasant with one another and avoid all disagreement. People, wanting to be loving, withhold some of the truth about themselves and their feelings in order to avoid conflict. Individual differences are minimized, unacknowledged, or ignored. The group may appear to be functioning smoothly but individuality, intimacy, and honesty are crushed. Generalizations and platitudes are characteristic of this stage. Our group moved this stage relatively quickly. Right away in our brainstorming we respectfully disagreed with each other and I think it is fair to say no one took it personally.

        Once individual differences surface, the group almost immediately moves into chaos. The chaos centers around well-intentioned but misguided attempts to heal and convert. Individual differences come out in the open and the group attempts to obliterate them. It is a stage of uncreative and unconstructive fighting and struggle. It is no fun. It is common for members to attack not only each other but also their leader, and common for one or more members-- invariably proposing an "escape into organization"--to attempt to replace the designated leader. However as long as the goal is true community, organization as an attempted solution to chaos is unworkable. Our group hit this stage very distinctively. Our chaos centered more around our different work schedules, lack of time to meet outside of class and deciding between two pretty cool ideas for our presentation.

        The way through chaos to true community is through emptiness. It is the hardest and crucial stage of community development. It means members emptying themselves of barriers to communication. The most common barriers are expectations and preconceptions; prejudices; ideology, theology and solutions; the need to heal, fix, convert or solve; and the need to control. The stage of emptiness is ushered in as members begin to share their own brokenness--their defeats, failures, fears, rather than acting as if they "have it all together." This stage was powerful for our group. Sharing all of the aforementioned emotions above, we were all able to re-center and transition from being self-absorbed to connecting in our common feeling of being overwhelmed and started to pull all of our work together that we had initially agreed to take responsibility.



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