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Working Well Together

Working Well Together

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Published by Rob Melton
Interpersonal skills, knowledge of other group members are the key to successful for any type of group work. This is especially true in the classroom and in the workplace. The key to effective group work is discussed, as well as activities to get groups started.
Interpersonal skills, knowledge of other group members are the key to successful for any type of group work. This is especially true in the classroom and in the workplace. The key to effective group work is discussed, as well as activities to get groups started.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Rob Melton on Mar 05, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Learning can be en-hanced by gettingstudents to know eachother. Research suggestsstudents don’t know eachother very well: one-third are going to moveevery four years. If youlook at all students,there is a tremendousamount of turnover.That’s why it’s importantto spend some time atthe beginning to developa positive learning environment among the group.A positive learning environment is one in whichstudents perceive that the teacher thinks they canlearn what the teacher wants them to learn. Researchsuggests an environment that is positive is one inwhich students learn the best. In terms of teacherbehavior, it also suggests teachers should have a highforgiveness quotient, that is, be “enabling” of learningthrough failure.In student groups, the success or failure of aparticular group is based on each student’s interper-sonal skills and their knowledge of group process.Counselor Paul Nash says in terms of interpersonalrelationships, students need to learn three: depen-dent, independent, and interdependent. Studentsmust possess Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, andHabits (KASH) in order to succeed in social systems,Nash says. Attitudes are the biggest problem, andmost elusive.
One of the most important studies of how groupswork was created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingramin 1955. They were attending a meeting in California,and were involved in group work with people they had
not met. Each was inseveral different groups,and they began discuss-ing individuals in thosegroups and why somegroups were effectiveand some were not.What they did was todiagram the way new groups function, which iscalled the JoHari Square(formed from combiningtheir first names). (SeeDiagram 1.)The groups which were successful, they discov-ered, were ones in which individuals knew a greatdeal about themselves and about the others in theirgroup (Open). They also noted that groups in whichindividuals either did not know a great deal aboutthemselves and/or others (Blind, Unknown, andClosed) performed poorly. They theorized and latershowed that moving individuals in a group from Blindto Open, or Closed to Open, or Unknown to Open,improves group dynamics and the eventual success ofthe group. A brief discussion of each of these charac-teristics follows.
Information is free and available toothers, There is alwayssome open informationabout a person, whetherit be their name, wherethey live or work, ortheir family. Peoplemake inferences basedon this information,although not in propor-tion to other informationthey learn about aperson.
—This issometimes called the
Working Well Together
Interpersonal skills, knowledge of other group membersare key to successful group work
 What is requiredfor people to suc-ceed in socialsystems such asgroups:
—Paul Nash
Feedback shouldbe:
descriptive, notjudgmental
well-timed, so theperson can hear andaccept it in the bestway possible
something the personcan change
heard in the correctway by the learner
Known to selfUnknown to self 
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Diagram 1.
 The JohariSquare
“halitosis” rectangle, because the person doesn’t seemto know something about himself or herself whileothers do. How do people move from Blind to Open?Usually, someone has to tell them. Teachers get paid,for example, to tell students these things so thestudents can move from Blind to Open. Feedback isnot always negative, either. People didn’t alwaysrecognize the talented and gifted, for example.
Everything about a person is unknownuntil you have a conversation. To a great extent, eachperson controls information about themselves. No onecan make another person do something they don’twant to do, or reveal a secret they don’t want toreveal. Even though it is healthy to keep some thingssecret, the more open a person is, the less guardedthey have to be as an individual. How do people movefrom Closed to Open? Through self-disclosure, ordivulging information willingly about themselves.People need to learn to self-disclose successfully.Information should relate to the here and now. Ourculture values openness. It must happen willingly andwithout coercion. Often it is an invitation to reciproc-ity. This is an important skill.
Information is unknown to self andto others. Everything that happens to a person isremembered by the brain like a recorder in yoursubconscious or unconscious, including experiencesyou thought about but never did. That is what ex-plains those unexpected things which you’ll do. Itsknowing how a person performs in battle—you neverknow until you’re tested.
The following activity is designed to facilitategroup members moving from Blind, Closed andUnknown to Open, and should be the first activity fora newly formed group.There are five rounds. The first two rounds aretimes and the rest are not. Each group member willhave one minute to talk during Round I and RoundII. The group will select a timer, who will call timeafter one minute.Round I—Things you normally tell other people.Round II—Turning points in your life.Round III—Embarrassing moments.Round IV—Significant person in your life, andwhy.Round VSomeone walks in with a telegram thatbrings you good news. What would it say?Round VI—Choose three to five words thatdescribe each person in your group positively, i.e., “Isee you as a person who is…,” or “I appreciate….”Guidelines for feedback:The person who is getting feedback cannot talk.Every person in the group will give feedback.Look the person you’re talking to in the eyes. Talkwith people in a believable way.Also remember that teachers need positive feed-back, too.
Once you have finished this exercise, answer thefollowing questions:1.List some words that describe the impact of theexercise.2.Which is easier? To give or get feedback?3.Why was there no talking allowed on the feedbackround?
Other Get-To_Know-You Activities:Favorites
 Ask students to choose their favoritesong. Analyze each student’s song in a class discus-sion.
 Since much modern popular music featuressongs with a message or image attached to them, thisis a good activity to reveal much about each student.Ask lots of follow-up questions.
Life Collage
 Put together a collage that will effec-tively portray the high and low points and shapinginfluences in your life.
What results is a single artistic representa-tion of who they are and the forces that helped moldtheir personalities, beliefs, convictions, fears, anxi-eties, insecurities.
What happens:
They begin to talk about theinterrelatedness of the events of their lives which theyhad not confronted before. They also begin to see thesimilarities and differences within the group.
 Take one minute and have everyonewrite down their ideas. After one minute, have threepeople get into a group and put all their ideas on onesheet of paper. After three minutes, have six people(two groups) get in a group to put all their ideas downtogether onto a sheet of paper. After six minutes,choose three to five of the best ideas from each groupto share with the class.
 You’re An Animal!
 What animal would you pick that bestrepresents you? Why? Do other members of the classthink another animal would be more appropriate?Why?
 Valuable insights will occur after thelaughing subsides.
What happens
 Participants who wish to be lionsor panthers are saying something about themselvesthat is worthwhile to confront, as are those who wouldprefer to be sleepy old dogs lying in the shade, orthose who think they are tigers when the rest of theclass thinks they are a jellyfish.
Use the DESC script to teach peoplehow to talk to each other when there is a problem:
 what the person did;
 how it made youfeel;
 what the person needs to do to correct thesituation; identify the
 if they do notcorrect the problem and meet your our demands.
Cue Card Perceptions
Have one student give a report to acommittee. While the report is being delivered, cuecards are held up so the group receiving the reportcan view them, but the student delivering the reportcannot. The cue cards give a variety of instructions:Ignore me, tease me, humor me, etc.
Do not overact 
.The reporting student’s task is to see if he/she canspot listener reactions comparable to those they willencounter when their committee work begins; to see ifthey are getting their point across, and if they arebeing listened to or merely heard. Can they alter theirdelivery to bring the group around?
Rob Melton would like to hear your ideas about gettingroups working productively, as well as ideas for future articles. He can be reached by mail at BensoHigh School, 546 N.E. 12th, Portland, OR 97232, or by e-mail at rmelton@pps.k12.or.us.

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