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close this bookTeacher Training: a Reference Manual (Peace Corps, 1986, 176 p.)
close this folderChapter 3 collaboration
close this folderCollaboration skills
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOrganization
View the documentCommunication
View the documentFeedback/ critiquing
View the documentWorking in groups
View the documentLeadership
View the documentNetworking

Working in groups

To prepare for working in groups, a large part of a successful collaboration strategy, the teacher should understand the basic principles of group dynamics and the various functions group members perform. When working in groups, it is important to maintain a baler between process and task functions.

Process functions include:

° ENCOURAGING: being friendly, warm, responsive to others, praising others and their ideas, agreeing with the accepting the contributions of others.

° MEDIATING: harmonizing, conciliating differences in points of view, making compromises.

° RELIEVING TENSION: draining off negative feeling by jesting or throwing oil on troubled waters, diverting attention from unpleasant to pleasant matters.

° FOLLOWING: going along with the group, somewhat passively accepting the ideas of others, serving as an audience during group discussion, being a good listener.

° STANDARD SETTING: expressing standards for the group to use in choosing its subject matter or procedures, rules of conduct, ethical values.

° GATE KEEPING: trying to make it possible for another member to make a contribution by saying, "We haven't heard from Karamo yet," or suggesting limited talking time for everyone so that all will have a chance to be heard.

Task functions include:

° INITIATING: suggesting new ideas or a changed way of looking at the group problem or goal, proposing new activities.

° INFORMATION SEEKING: asking for relevant facts or authoritative information.

° INFORMATION GIVING: providing relevant facts or authoritative information or relating personal experience pertinently to the group task.

° OPINION GIVING: stating a pertinent belief or opinion about something the group is considering.

° CLARIFYING: probing for meaning and understanding, restating something the group is considering.

° ELABORATING: building on a previous comment, enlarging on it, giving examples.

° COORDINATING: Showing or clarifying the relationships among various ideas, trying to pull ideas and suggestions together.

° ORIENTING: defining the progress of the discussion in terms of the group's goals, raising questions about the direction the discussion is taking.

° TESTING: checking with the group to see if it is ready to make a decision or to take some action.

° SUMMARIZING: reviewing the content of the past discussion.

These functions are not needed equally at all times by a group. Indeed, if a given function is performed inappropriately, it may interfere with the group's operation -- as when some jester relieves group tension just when the tension is about to result in some real action. But often, when a group is not getting along as it should, a diagnosis of the problem will probably indicate that nobody is performing one of the functions listed above that is needed at that moment to move the group ahead.


1. When you work in groups, do you find yourself playing one role more than any other? Which one(s)?

2. How does your role affect the dynamics of the group?

3. Do you ever wish you could stop playing a particular role or start playing another one? How can you make this happen?