Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Power of Group

The second group of students did their final project, the facilitation of a group.  Beyond a doubt, one of the best group facilitations I have seen since I began this process several semesters ago.  Sometimes, you never know for sure how well a student has learned something, but when I watched them yesterday, I knew.  This was the "quiet" group--the ones who seldom offer comments in class, yet the level of their knowledge and skill was clear.  Afterward, I asked for their feedback first, in terms of what they thought they had done well.  At some point, one student said she noticed when she looked at the group composition that it was all quiet students, like herself, and she realized she would have to be more vocal than normal.  I laughed and said, "Now how do you suppose that happened?"  Then another student commented that it was noted that the group on Monday was all the more talkative, dominant students, and again I said "Now, how do you suppose that happened?"  I reinforced it was easier for them to demonstrate their skills in a group where there were not those dominant talkative people where a quieter person can fade, and only the vigilant leader who works to draw them out by being less dominant helps them to develop their own leadership.  But, I pointed out that now they had clearly demonstrated they had the skills and could do that, they now had to work to transfer that to groups where there were those dominant personalities, and how they had to be the vigilant ones to help groups achieve the level of balance in participation.  One of the most rewarding aspects of the process was how they really exemplified social work values: they did not talk over or interrupt each other; they were respectful when they disagreed with an opinion or idea offered about how to address the topic of issue, and they clearly worked to include all the group members.  They had excellent group dynamics on all four scales: communication, cohesion, social control norms, and culture.

The final thing that was so impressive was their ability to discuss the issues (their topic was the low pass rate on the social work license examination in Mississippi as compared with the national pass rate) in a comprehensive way.  They seemed to grasp the systemic nature of the problem, including the education system in MS, the influence of poverty, and the status of MS as a whole in terms of all the indicators of importance (economics, education, etc.)  They also did not let  programs off the hook, identifying the possibility that they were not being taught to apply knowledge to really practice social work, and that perhaps the standards of admission should be higher.  They referenced other programs where the admission requirements were higher, and questioned the relevance of that factor in the MS outcome.  And finally, they all agreed that THEY as well as US need to take action: that they as future social workers bore an obligation to help address the inequities that resulted in the unfavorable outcomes here; that the future social work students would be THEIR colleagues and that this group of students could and should help us to solve this problem.

It was another moment when I am hopeful for the future, and pleased to have been part of the present.

1 comment:

The Graywolf said...

About the only groups I have ever been involved with were people in 12-step programs: an assortment of social dregs, astronauts, Bolivians and wannabe mass murderers. Kurt Vonnegut got it right when he said, "So it goes."

This is one of most profound statements in the history of written communication. It is unassailable in its simplicity, logic and truth.
"So it goes."