Donna has a B.A. in German, B.A. in Political Science, and M.A. in Political Science from University of California, Berkeley. She has over 20 years of teaching experience at the college level in subjects including business and political science.
Five Stages of Group Development
Have you ever worked in a group or team that did not function very well? If so, you know that groups require time and effort to reach their peak performance. Scholars have proposed different models for how groups develop over time. One of the most well-known models for group development was proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman was an educational psychologist who studied the behavior of small groups in different situations. Tuckman initially identified four stages of group development: forming, storming, norming, and performing. He added a fifth stage called adjourning in 1977.
Tuckman believed that each of the five stages was necessary and inevitable for group growth and development. Groups that successfully move through these stages become highly cohesive. Cohesiveness is an indicator of how committed the group members are to work together to achieve the group's goals. This lesson focuses on the first of the five group development stages: forming.
The Forming Stage of Group Development
During the forming stage, the group members are just getting to know each other and usually do not yet have a clear idea of what is expected of them. They spend time observing each other, are cautious in how they present themselves, and want to be accepted by the rest of the group. Members may exhibit somewhat formal behavior and not yet be at ease with each other.
One way to help members become comfortable is to have them do ice-breakers. Ice breakers are activities that help groups ease tension and reduce formality. An example of an ice breaker is a game called Two Truths And A Lie. Group members take turns sharing three statements about themselves, one of which is a lie. The other members of the group have fun trying to guess which of the statements is the lie.
Another feature of the forming stage is spending time clarifying goals and objectives. Even at this early stage of group development, the members should start to show buy-in to the group's mission. The group will also take up tasks that do not generate conflict or controversy. Routine matters, such as meeting times and individual roles and responsibilities, will be on the group's agenda. A group leader may play a larger role in directing the group during this stage as compared to other stages of group development.
Moving to the Next Stage
Under Tuckman's model, groups move in a linear fashion through the five stages of group development. However, there is no formal time frame for groups to move through these stages, and it may not even be completely clear when a group has moved from one stage to the next. Yet, as the forming stage comes to an end, the group will move on to the storming stage. A group is ready for the storming stage when the members have become comfortable with each other and are ready to take on more controversial topics.
Completion of this lesson should help you with the following:
- List Tuckman's five stages of group development
- Discuss the purpose of the forming stage
- Recall ways to support the forming stage
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