Bruce W. Tuckman is a well-respected psychologist from Princeton University. He created and developed the 4 stages of group development after analyzing the behavior of small groups in a variety of environments. He believed that these stages were all needed in order for groups to achieve maximum effectiveness.
1st stage: Forming
In this first stage, individuals strive to be accepted by each other. Conflict or controversy is often avoided. Major feelings and related issues are also avoided. People within the group are focused on creating routines such as the organizational structure of the team, who is responsible for what, when the team will meet, the location that they’ll meet, etc. Additionally during this stage, individuals are taking in information and creating impressions of each other. This is also being done for the task to be accomplished. As you can expect, during this time, not much is accomplished in terms of driving towards the goal (the task the group was created to complete).
Application to student organizations –> Students desire to get involved. They check out some student organizations that may appeal to them. If a student was a member of a particular organization in high school, they may seek out one with similar core values.
2nd stage: Storming
During the 2nd stage, individuals begin to challenge each other in an effort to start addressing issues. There will be minor arguments but they will pass rather quickly. The subjects of the confrontations are likely to be related to the work of the group or even responsibilities within the group. Select members may stress the importance of attacking the real issues at hand while others may wish to remain in the comfort of stage 1 (forming) . Depending on the culture of the organization and individuals, conflict will likely be suppressed but will be there under the surface. To settle conflict, individuals may believe that they are losing or winning battles and will cite rules or instructions to minimize the constant conflict.
Application to student organizations –> Students desire to establish there place in there recently joined organizations. Potential future leaders may emerge and minor disagreements are a possibility.
3rd stage: Norming
In stage 3, the group begins to “come together.” The “rules of engagement” are established and the group’s responsibilities or tasks have been clearing defined and agreed upon. Now past their arguments, members now understand each other, and have an appreciation for each other’s skills. Individuals now support each other–that is they feel that they are now part of a cohesive and effective group. Any pressure for additional change at this point may be faced by resistance for fear of the group dissolving or regressing to the storming stage (2nd stage).
Application to student organizations –> Students now understand their purpose within the organization. The art of delegation is used often. Leaders continue to develop.
4th stage: Performing
The fourth stage can be described by a state of flexibility and a state of interdependence. Not all groups are able to reach this stage. Members of the group now understand each other very well and have a sense of trust. Roles and responsibilities change as needed almost seamlessly. Group morale, identity, and loyalty are at an all time high. As members are now people-oriented and task-oriented, the energy of the group can now be directly toward completion of the task(s).
Application to student organizations –> Students have a clear understanding of the core values of the organization. High level of autonomy.
[Bonus] 5th stage: Adjourning
Approximately 12 years after the creation of the original four stages of group development, Bruce W. Tuckman added a fifth stage known as “Adjourning.” This stage refers to the dissolving of the group, likely after it has completed its task(s) and hence fulfilled its purpose.
Application to student organizations –> Students may leave an organization for several reasons–lost of belonging–not enough time to participate–graduate from college / university.
Source: Case Western Reserve University
Image source: Bobby Alcott on Flickr
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