Student Success Centre

What to expect from your new team

If you want to practice strategies to help foster team development, think about visiting our “Team Building and Motivation” workshops through the Leadership Education Program. Find a calendar at www.lepevents.uwo.ca

You’re sitting in class when the professor says those two words that are enough to strike fear into the heart of any undergrad: “group project.”

For many, the idea is enough to make their stomach turn. They don’t like their fate in the hands of fellow students, much preferring the control provided by caffeine fueled solo study sessions and exams.

But learning to function as part of a team is important, and not just for university assignments. It’s a necessary skillset to function in many job environments and more generally in day-to-day life.

So when you hear those two fateful words, take a deep breath. You can probably predict what will happen next, and with a steady hand you can even guide that group through to the good marks on the other side.

 

The Stages of Group Theory

The growth and growing pains that your assignment group is going to go through are entirely predictable if professor Bruce Tuckman has anything to say about it. In the 1960’s and 70’s he crafted what have come to be known as “Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development.”

Forming

This is when the squad first gets together. Everyone has their own goals, objectives and motivations for the project. Since you might have just met it goes without saying that you’re not on the same page just yet. That means people are still getting a feel for both their tasks, and their fellow group members.

Storming

Bumps along the way are perfectly normal; it’s how we guide the group through the other side that will be important. People are starting to get a good handle on what the task is, but each person might have different ideas of how to work toward that goal. With different ideas fighting for control and everyone invested in a different part of the process, the group might all be aiming to achieve the same thing (get an A), and they might be very invested in getting there, but unless you find a way to collaborate, there’s going to be conflict.

Norming

Assuming you worked through the bumps along the way (if you want to find out how, come to our workshop!) you will advance beyond the storming stage and into the norming part of the process. By now the group is starting to work as part of a team. You’re able to come to decisions as a group and everyone understands how their part of the process works to serve the larger goal.

Performing

This is as good as it gets: working as a well-oiled machine. It’s entirely possible that your team won’t make it this far, but if you do, you can expect to be highly productive. Everyone is working toward a common goal, firing on all cylinders. Group members can take projects and work independently toward their common goals, but also support each other when needed. At this point, morale is probably through the roof.

Adjourning

Alas, all good things must come to an end. This is when the group parts and goes their separate ways.

 

Resources

If you want to learn more, check out Tuckman’s original publication:

Tuckman, Bruce (1965). “Developmental sequence in small groups.” Psychological Bulletin. 63 (6): 384-399.

 

If you want to practice strategies to help foster team development, think about visiting our “Team Building and Motivation” workshops through the Leadership Education Program. Find a calendar at www.lepevents.uwo.ca