Group Work Stages

Group Work Stages

Stages of Group Development

The achievement of the goals is the objective of any professional encounter; the tasks are done with a purpose. The Social Group Work process is conceived of as one that is systematic and proceeds through stages also referred to as phases. A group can pass through various stages of development; from the initial stage where it may appear as a mere assembly of individuals, it can go on to become a group with a strong ‘we feeling’. The stages and the activities associated with it provide structure and direction to the process. The different stages are but a reflection of the process of maturity of the group. Theoretically, we may segregate different stages of group development for conceptual clarity but in reality they are intertwined. Throughout the stages there are two concerted concerns of the Social group worker, namely, building and sustaining a collaborative relationship and working on the tasks directed at achieving goals. The tasks and activities chosen reflect the Social Group Worker’s ideas about what is necessary at different points in time to bring about change.

The Stages of Group Development

First Stage: Planning and Forming the Group (Beginning)

This phase marks the beginning of the process of group development and is also called the pre-group or pre-affiliation stage by some experts. In India the groups have to be formed by the group worker in most cases. S/he may form the group from among the existing clientele of the social welfare agencies/NGO’s or from among the open community settings. Before forming a group, the group worker must study the target population along the following points such as geographical location, age, gender, socio-economic background, needs/problems, interests and any other relevant detail.

This information helps the group worker to form the group on some common ground and accordingly determine the group goals. Careful planning should precede the formation of the group which includes decision about the target population, needs and goals, the resources available etc.
The members may have to be convinced to join the group as they may be ignorant of the usefulness of being a part of a group and may not have had any such experience in the past. “Groups in India are initially conceived by an organization or welfare agency, as people themselves generally do not take such initiatives. Both the voluntary and the government organizations have found working with

The other details that have to be focused while planning and forming the group are:
  1. The size of the group
    The decision about the size of the group is dependent on various factors such as the needs of members, purpose of group, nature of group membership etc. for instance self help groups may be large in size but therapeutic groups work best when they are small. Though there is no ideal size, a group size ranging from eight to fifteen members may be a good size.
  2. Composition of the group
    Planning about the composition of the group has to be in keeping with its purpose. Whether it is a self-help group, task group or treatment oriented group, it may be either homogenous or heterogeneous. Before deciding the nature of membership, the group worker should familiarize herself with the client group along the points already mentioned above such as their socio-economic background etc.
  3. Frequency of the sessions and their duration
    Though there is no hard and fast rule, frequency of the sessions may be decided in accordance with the needs and purpose of the group. There should not be too long gaps between the sessions, lest the group gets disintegrated. Recreation groups, therapeutic groups, task groups should meet at least once or twice a week.
  4. Time and place of meetings
    The place where the group is to meet at the designated time has to be decided in consultation with the members. The guiding factors are the convenience of the members, availability and adequacy of space and resources.
  5. Duration of the group
    Whether the group will exist for a long or short term may again have to be in keeping with the needs and goals of the group. The group can be terminated after achieving its objectives and a tentative time may be earmarked for it. There should however be an element of flexibility in deciding the time-frame.

Second Stage: Explorations (Initial Sessions)


In the initial sessions the group may appear more as a collection of different individuals than an organized entity. This stage is usually characterized by a low group consciousness. There may be shyness, hesitation, indecision and lack of participation. Some members maybe hyper active, and some may be insecure and nervous, not having had such an experience in the past. However, this phase marks the beginning of the development of a feeling of belonging and oneness among the members. Tuckman has used the term ‘storming’ to explain this process of exploration. In the initial meetings a semblance of order has to be restored so as to ensure a free flow of ideas and actions.

This stage involves the following steps:
  1. Orientation and Induction
    The initial stage is important as it lays the foundation of the success or failure of the group work program. The worker should introduce the members to the group by outlining his role and the purposes for which the group has been formed, the members should be encouraged to speak about themselves, their hopes and aspirations. In the initial sessions the members have to be inducted into the group with a certain sensitivity so as to raise their level of comfort and sense of ease. The members may be unfamiliar with each other and may be interested in finding out about the agency, the worker, other members and the purpose of the group.
  2. Preparation of the Profile of the Members
    Just as there is a need for the members to know each other, the worker too should study and observe the members closely. The worker should prepare a profile of each member giving his age, family background, physical characteristics, habits, interests, level of confidence, any peculiar habits or traits etc. It would help if this is based on the facts gathered and his/her observations in the initial sessions. This would not only help him understand the group relationship levels and interaction patterns better but also begin from where the group is. Further this may help him map the development over a period of time, especially at the stage of evaluation.
  3. Setting Specific Objectives
    While there may be larger goals which a group may strive to ultimately achieve, specific interim goals also need to be explored, which can form the basis of program planning. Here the worker has to help the group determine the desired level of behaviour or social change. Although in the first stage the group has been formed keeping in mind some purpose, It is at this stage that goals have to be specifically delineated. Here the group worker encourages the active participation of the group members and helps the group assume the responsibility to determine the level of change they desire to achieve in their behaviour or social situation. e.g. kicking up the habit of smoking/ chewing tobacco, giving up using abusive language. Objectives are nothing but statements of what the group worker is trying to achieve through the group work process. They give meaning to the process. “Objectives serve the same purpose as a compass; they guide the agency and the worker to a determined destination”. (Trecker , 1955, 57).
  4. Developing a Structure
    As the group is now ready to settle down, it can be structured at this stage. The members must now be prepared and encouraged to assume roles and responsibilities. They are to be told about the expectations of the group from them in terms of tasks, on the basis of their capabilities and talents. In the Indian context the members may have to be closely assisted till they learn to assume responsibilities on their own. Some may need constant help of the group worker to carry out their roles. The worker at this stage must constantly encourage the members to use their latent talents and capacities.

Third Stage: Performing (Action Phase)

  1. Action Phase
    After some sessions, the signs of group development start emerging as the group progresses into its active phase. The focus of this stage is on the provision of program experiences designed to offer opportunities for adjustment and growth. The programs may be of a long or short term depending on the immediate and long term objectives.
  2. Program Planning and Execution
    Program is a series of activities based on the discovery of interests and needs of the members and an important component of Social Group Work process; the way it is planned even more important. It may range from art and craft to music, dance, social events to picnics excursions. At this stage the program interests are likely to emerge from within the group. The members who may be initially be at a loss from where to begin must now be encouraged to take over. The members are stimulated to discover and use their own resources. The program planning and development process by itself is an important tool in helping the group to realize its potential “Program should evolve from simple to more complex, with movement coming as a result of group growth in ability and readiness. Movement from initially ‘personal’ to ‘social’ or ‘community concerns’ should be an ultimate objective if our programs are to have greater social significance” (Trecker, 1955, 162)
  3. Task accomplishment
    “When the group begins to show signs of readiness to move ahead, the worker should help the members realize their wishes for different and more demanding experiences. When group members begin to express desires to correct inadequacies and improve their work, they have reached an advanced point in their development. Programs that may have been self-centered shift in emphasis to the larger agency and community concerns. Specialized interests may be revealed, and there may be an interest in a variety of small group activities within the larger group. Here the worker is called upon to use his knowledge of agency and community resources. His role becomes that of an interpreter to the group, especially in regard to future possibilities. Evaluation occupies a larger share of time as the group becomes confident of its capacities” (Trecker, 1955)
  4. Monitoring Progress
    The group worker at this stage steps down and allows the group to take over. However he needs to constantly monitor and keep a track of the ways the program is being conducted. As work towards the group goals gathers momentum it is important to monitor the progress on a regular basis. The program can be monitored on the basis of specific indicators such as interaction patterns, self improvement, emotional integration with the group, leadership and communication skills etc.

Fourth Stage: Assessment (Evaluation)


After the action phase is over, the group should be ready to evaluate the outcome of its efforts in a free, frank and objective manner. “Evaluation is that part of Social Group Work in which the worker attempts to measure the quality of a group’s experience in relation to the objectives and functions of the agency. Evaluation may centre upon individual growth, program content or worker performance because all these aspects tend to influence the general achievement of the group.”(Trecker, 1955 ) Evaluation is continuously done during the group work process, but, after the group activities are over, before the termination phase; a comprehensive assessment of the entire experience is a must. This helps in improving subsequent group work experiences on the basis of the lessons learnt; a guide to future.

  • Group dynamics –
    The behaviour of individual in a group is determined not only by his inner forces but also by the people around him. Thus apart from the individual dynamics, a social group worker must understand group dynamics or various concepts of the group process. The concepts like acceptance or refection, isolation (neglected and reflected) sub groups, group bonding, group hostility and group contagion, group support and group conflict are studied under group dynamics.
    1. Acceptance or refection –
      A group worker must know every individual group member’s relationship with other group members or how much power each one has over others i.e. whether he is accepted by other or isolated
    2. Sub groups –
      The sub groups in a group is very natural as people tend is divide in groups based on their affinity or interests. The group worker should observe whether these sub groups are functional, dysfunctional groups. If they are threatening the unity of the group the group worker should act accordingly.
    3. Group Bond: –
      It refers to ‘group cohesiveness’ or ‘sense of belonging’. It is the force bringing group member together. Group bond may be emotional or task related. Group bond is a powerful aspect of the group dynamics.
    4. Group hostility and group contagion :–
      Hostility means aggression or resentment or unfriendliness group contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to influenced by other in the group. In this regard, Barsade (2002) comments : “it is a process in which a person or group influences the emotion or behaviour of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and behavioural attitudes. Group contagion may occur in examination or when two children are upset in a camp or when some external threat comes.

    5. Group Support: –
      Any work become easy in group when support and courage come from other member. It is a positive attitude and moral support shared by group members for helping each other. The group worker must observe this dynamics to get better knowledge about group members.
    6. Group conflict: –
      Conflict among human is inevitable and every group exist with some kind of conflict. Maturity of a group can be understood by observing how a group resolves conflict. Normally conflict is resolved through withdrawal, subjugation, majority rule minority consent, compromise and integration, integration is considered to be the best way to resolve conflict.
  • Team Evaluation and Maturation
    (TEAM) model of social group work identified by Morgan, Salas and Glickman has seven main steps of group development such as first meeting (forming) unstable situation (storming), accommodation (norming), inefficient patterns of performance (performing – I ), re-evaluation and transition (reforming), effective performance (performing – II), and completion of assignments (conforming).
  • Acquisition and Behavioral change (ABC)
    model of social group work was developed by Tom Caplan.