Working in groups is a part of the educational experience and, naturally, the real world. For educators, understanding the roles within a group and how size can affect performance is vital so that educators can put students in situations where they can succeed. We will look at the roles within groups and their size in this post.
Roles in Groups
There are at least three different roles in groups, and these are all based on what a member chooses to focus on as a member. These three roles are task-orientation, relations-orientation, and self-orientation.
Task-oriented group members are focused on getting things done and achieving group performance goals. Often it is hard to find task-oriented students, but high-performing students may fill this role in a group. Generally, focusing on the task can irritate peers who believe that other things are essential. However, when the work is not done, it can also lead to friction with the task-oriented person.
Relation-orientated members are focus on the social harmony and cohesiveness of the group. They are focus on being sure that people are happy. Completing the task or achieving the mission is secondary to the socio-emotional state of the group. Task-orientated members might call relation-orientated members “slackers” or non-performers. However, if work is what makes everyone happy, a relation-orientated person will work for the sake of harmony. It seems like most students fit this role.
Lastly, self-oriented individuals only care about their own goals, even at the expense of the group. They only see the group in terms of what they can get out of it. Such individuals can be high performers or social loafers. What makes them unique is their motivation to benefit themselves. Task and relationship-oriented members often do not even see these people as team players and have some disdain for them when their motivates are exposed.
Success with a group requires having a balance between task and relation-oriented people and avoidance of self-oriented people. A teacher may want to avoid a group where everyone is relation-oriented because nothing will get done as everyone is focused on the people’s happiness. A group that is is heavily task-oriented or has a minority of relation-orientated people may have success. Any combination of self-oriented people can be a problem unless the other group members can get them to buy into the group’s mission.
When forming groups and determining their size, a teacher must think about how the size affects performance. The size of a group is relative. What is a large group to one person is a small or medium group to another. However, despite this ambiguity, certain things tend to happen as a group’s size is modified.
When a group becomes larger, the interaction between members decreases due to the higher number of relationships. In addition, the cohesiveness or strength of the group also goes down as people have less personal responsibility. Other things that decline include satisfaction while absenteeism and social loafing increase.
This indicates that smaller groups may be better as they increase all of these dimensions that have already been discussed. For students who are already struggling with maturity and performance. Smaller groups may be critical for academic success. If groups get too big, the lack of individual accountability could become a problem.
People are people just as students are students. When working groups, they have different motivates and reasons for being there. As a teacher, it is crucial to find the right balance between the various roles in a group and the group’s size needed for success.