Monday, June 22, 2009

Topic: Samll-Group Discussion (1)

Topic: Small-Group Discussion (1)

10-second review: Roles in Working with Small Groups: Maintenance Roles

Title: “Small-Group Discussion.” Raymond Stopper. Xlibris, 2004, pp. 299-303.

Small-Group Discussion

“A second skill in speaking (after formal speech) is the small group discussion (related today to ‘cooperative learning,’ or group projects), which, in my experience, at every educational level, has been a complete waste of student time. Usually ‘getting into small groups’ meant ‘BS-ing’ about irrelevant topics, and group projects usually became the responsibility of one or two people in the group to complete the project. However, in the real world, group projects are the way in which the world’s business is completed. Group projects involve a variety of talents in producing results that could probably not be attained by any one individual. Teaching students how to work in groups needs to be taken seriously.

“English teachers have the responsibility to train students in the skills and attitudes needed to participate successfully in small group discussions and projects. They need to teach students how to moderate a discussion and how to act as leaders in projects, how to take notes for later reporting to the larger group and how to analyze the roles of various participants in order to learn what helps a group to achieve its goals and what prevents a group from achieving its goals. As usual, the teachers’ performing these tasks as they work with the students provides models to follow. “

David M. Litsey (1969) suggests 18 roles that people can play in a group enterprise. He divides these roles into three categories: ‘Maintenance,’ ‘Task Roles,’ and ‘Self-Serving Roles.’ ”

Maintenance Roles in Small Group Work

1. Encouraging: Being warm and responsive to others; accepting the contributions of others; giving others an opportunity for recognition.

2. Expressing group feelings: Sensing feeling and mood, or relationships within the group, and sharing one’s own feelings with other members.

3. Harmonizing: Attempting to reconcile differences and reduce tension by giving people a chance to explore their differences.

4. Compromising. When one’s own ideas or status is involved in a conflict, offering to compromise; admitting error; disciplining oneself to maintain group cohesion.

5. Gate-keeping: Keeping communication channels open and facilitating the participation of others.

6. Setting standards: Expressing standards for the group to achieve; applying standards in evaluating group function and production.

Comment: Of course, all of these roles are positive in keeping the group moving toward its goals. But “Maintenance roles” do not say anything about goals. You can’t assume that people understand the goals of the small-group work or project. They must be clearly expressed. And the best people to define the goals in their own words will be the people who are part of the small-group discussion or project. In my workshops, I always began with the problem we were asked to solve. We began by reading professional articles related to the problem. Then we defined the problem and the goals of the workshop. Rays.

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