Reflecting part of the group will look at the

Reflecting on my experience working
within a group

 

This essay reflects on my personal
experience of working within a group setting and my motivation of being part of
the group and learning approached used as part of the group. The first part of
the group will look at the dynamic setting and diversity of the group and the
contextual settings. The second part will be reflecting and analysing the
experience and happenings relating to the activities that occurred an 8-week
period. The last part of this reflective essay will be the conclusion and
recommendations.

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Journal of Experience

 

24th October- this was the
group’s initial meeting which was agreed in class after the all individuals
agreed to be part of the group. The previous day a Whatsapp group was created
which was going to be the central means of communication. During the initial
group meeting, introductions were done although 5members of the group already
knew each other but there was one member who was new to everyone and only knew
one person from the group. We decided to make the introductions more fun by
asking everyone to introduce themselves and say one interesting thing about
themselves. From this initial meeting, I was able to observe each member and
get an understanding of who they are. One group member was outstanding as they
came across very shy and when they introduced themselves they kept it very
short and minimal. The group consisted of 2 engineers studying Environmental
Management, 1 Massage therapist also on the Environmental course, 1 Banking and
Management student and myself who a Housing officer. In addition to the mixture
of different work backgrounds there was also a good mixture of different
cultures which was very good for this task.

 

After introductions, I proposed that
we all bring out our Belbin’s analysis results from the lecture activity to try
and establish people’s strengths and capabilities. No everyone had their Belbin
analysis sheet which was not of outmost importance as it was something the
lecturer had advised as a helpful tool to undertaking the group work. I further
proposed a brainstorming session of proposing which topics we intended to make
our group topic. Everyone introduced their topic and I suggested we all went
away and do more research and come up with at least 500words on the topic and
fully present it at the next meeting. At this point no group leader was chosen
however myself and 1 other group member seemed to have become the group
leaders.

 

Demonstrating extrinsic
motivation (Huczynski and Buchanan 2013), I had this idea that I could easily
accomplish this assignment, so I could adopt a surface approach to learning
(Gibbs 1992), and focus most of my attention and effort on other assignments.
Adopting different approaches for different types of assignments is what Gibbs
(1992) calls a ‘strategic’ approach to learning.

 

31st October- the
assignment had been uploaded to blackboard and fully explained during lecture.
Group members had also been emailed to the lecturer, however due to
circumstances beyond the students control there was a quite a mix up of groups
and also a lecture cancellation without prior notice rather no notice at all.
The lecturer was emailed to rectify the mistake with the groups and
acknowledgement was given and a correction done. The group met up as agreed and
I proposed we all introduce a topic explain why that topic was good and
relevant for the assignment. After going around the table, we voted for a topic
and two topics were picked. However, from my won observations two individuals
from the group seemed to have agreed to working on the two topics voted for
however there was clear emphasis on them wanting to work on one topic. This is
when conflict in the group started but indirectly.  On a positive note, everyone seemed very
confident and motivated to work as part of the group apart from 1 individual Dhri
who still came across as shy and either agreeing or respond with “she didn’t
know” to almost everything. Before the meeting ended I put myself forward to
create a central outlook folder where we could all upload documents.

 

8th November- the main
agenda at this meeting was to crack on with the assignment whilst everyone was
still high motivated and focused on working on it as we all had other different
commitments for other modules. Five people in the group made use of the central
document folder to upload their findings apart from Dhri who had not done so
and came to the meeting with nothing. This is where my frustrations started to
get more and more about her motivation levels as well as her understanding of
the importance of taking part. I was disappointed
that she had not delivered what we had agreed the previous week, demonstrating
how the goal-setting theory of motivation (Locke 1968) didn’t appear to work.
It appeared her motivation to study this topic was extrinsic – “I’m not
interested in the subject just a pass.” However, I questioned myself whether it
was an issue of Dhri struggling to fit in within the group as five of us seemed
to know each other prior to this group task and we used to throw banter a lot
during meetings and maybe that she was finding it difficult to adjust to that.
Another disappointment during this meeting was from the findings where I
realised Danni and Fab had only researched on one article which proved my gut
feeling from the previous meeting. To me this translated to a real life working
situation of a divided team working on a project together. Working together as
a team and making decisions together is a crucial aspect of achieving good
results, (reference). At this point I then decided to participate in the group
rather try and be a leader as I foresaw a huge clash that would have been
unnecessary and waste of time. Although from this point my motivation was
reduced adopting a more intrinsic approach (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2013) and I
shifted my own learning back to a more surface approach (Gibbs, 1992).

 

16th November-
at this stage our group had made considerable progress with the report
regardless of other lingering issues. One issue that kept bothering me was
‘what article exactly was the group working on?’ the reason was being it was
never directly addressed after the previous week when Dann and Fab presented
findings on one article not both. I chose to ignore this because at this point
my focus was more relaxed and more of a backbencher. Myself and another group
member Joe worked during the week which at times made it difficult for the
group to meet certain days and times. The group was very understanding and
accommodating which gave more room for flexibility. Moreover, the Whatsapp
group gave everyone a platform to communicate and suggest anything they wanted
to as well as notify everyone about document uploads. In all this, my
frustration with Dhri seemed to increase more and more to a point I felt like
asking her what was going with her. In the Whatsapp group she barely said
anything unless it was asking about an issue that would have been discussed in
the group and everyone including her would have agreed to understanding
everything. Another issue was she would ask things either the night before
meeting or in the early hours on the day of meeting, one example was when she
sent a message in the group asking a question relating to the meeting at 4am.
All these behaviours to me presented a she wasn’t willing to put much effort in
being part of the group and also just wanting to be part of a group just for
the sake of getting the assignment done. Overall, this meeting was good as much
of the document was put together and corrections were starting to take place.
One thing I realised was Fab was actually our group leader as he was doing of
the work after meetings, putting the document together, making correcting and
adding more stuff for the document to a gain a structure.

 

21st November- the
document was being edited and everything was moving forward. During this week
we had a change of lecturers and the assignment was changed a bit, this however
did not affect as a group as we decided to stick to what we had been working on
already. Another version of the draft was uploaded and Danni asked everyone to
read it through and edit it and note down if there is information missing or
that needs taking out. The group meeting took place as usual, the draft was
reviewed and corrections were made. At this point it was clear to me that we
are focusing on one article which was the one Danni and Fab had initially
worked on and presented from the very beginning. My disappointment was Pat, Joe
and Deri never challenged this they just went with the flow. I felt raising
this issue would not make a difference as it seemed I would be the only person
questioning this.  Joe and Pat
contributed during meetings, however I noticed Joe was starting to lag behind.
He seemed focused on his other assignments and giving less time to editing his part
or work on his allocated tasks.

 

28th November- due to
other personal commitments, I wasn’t able to attend the lecture and group
meeting scheduled on this day. I communicated this with everyone in the group.
In another conversation that took to ground on the same day was the assignment
being submitted on the 12th of December not the new submission date
22nd December, the reason Danni gave for this was because Pat was
going back home for the holidays before the 22nd of December. I was
questioned why the rush considering we had enough time to properly work on the
document and then submit and my other reason was I had two other assignments
due on the 12th so getting an extension on this became very handy
for me. To my surprise no response came from anyone in the group and again the
issue was left unaddressed. Danni proposed the next meeting date and proposed
we finalise on the document ready for submission.

 

4th December- the group
met and we finalised the document however Joe had still not presented his part
of the assignment. A final document was agreed and all final edits done, Joe
and Dhri were asked to work on their sections and then document would be complete
and ready for submission. During this week, I felt like Dhri had taken a step
forward in terms of editing the documents and being prompt with her work
although there was a bit extra push. On the other hand, Joe seemed to have
taken the backseat, his chosen topic in the main assignment had been
overshadowed which left him very relaxed. For a minute, I felt like he was not
happy hence the relaxed approach however, he was having to be pushed a little
bit too much to provide a ‘background’ paragraph for the document to be
finalised. Eventually he presented the paragraph but it was more at the very last.

 

15th December- Fab
messaged the group asking everyone to read the final document and confirm
whether it was good for submission. After the last group meeting and after Joe
eventually uploaded his part, Fab did the last and final editions to the
document. Danni did another edit and added a few bits then gave the green light
for submission. The document was submitted on the on the 19th of
December after everyone was happy with the document. Although the group task
had been submitted, the group kept intact and a couple of social events were
planned to get the group together but it was very unfortunate Dhri failed to be
part of the events.

 

Analysis of experience

 

This was an interesting experience
for me working within a group to produce the piece of work. My profession that
doesn’t give much of the group working experience as it is mostly lone working.
As well as, my last experience of working in a group was during my
undergraduate and funny enough some behaviour traits I experienced back then I
seem to have experienced them again with this group. Work in a group has its
positive and negative aspects. There is a saying by an English poet that says,
“more hands make light work’ (Heywood, 1497). This statement is true however it
can be argued when working in an actual group situation and it comes across as
being more then work than light work. Working in a group is meant to benefit
students through developing a host of skills that are important in the
professional world of work (Caruso and Woolley, 2008; Mannix and Neale,
2005).  Moreover, positive group
experiences have been proven to contribute to student learning, retention and
overall educational success (Astin, 1997; Tinto 1998).

 

In the early stages of this group
task, some key issues surfaced- lack of leadership which led to lack of
motivation. If the group had elected a leader, the dynamics of the group would
have been different and perhaps provided some inspirational motivation (Bass
and Avolio, 1990). Although there was no leader, the group formed and managed
to work through as a group which was a positive thing. During group meetings
and communication outside of meetings, there seemed to be an undercurrent of
conflict, although minor, which could have been partly attributed by different
personalities, social contract dynamics within the group and different levels
of motivation. With the diversity within the group, there was projection of a
clear understanding of topics such as leadership, developing teams and groups,
however there was a factor that was missing that could have driven the
experience towards more straightforward path. I would say on my side, that
missing factor was my levels of motivation how they drifted from being
extrinsic to being intrinsic.

 

Dewey (1993) defines reflection as an
active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of
knowledge in light of the groups that support it and the future conclusions to
which it tends. Applying the Kolb’s (1984) model of experiential learning and
concept of reflection, it provides an excellent understanding of the potential
power of a critical, engaged and active approach to reflection. The iteration
of reflection moves towards increasing the understanding and creation of
theories and development of our own truth, per say, hence learning is classed
as being a cyclical process rather than a linear process. Withstanding,
reflection has a purpose be in educational, work related or personal.
Reflecting on experiences is a powerful tool for managers, furthermore,
thoughtfulness is the most important asset to managers in business (Mintzberg).

 

For one to be part of an experience,
they need to understand and observe a situation, however, to fully understand
there needs to be a direct and strong link with reflection within the experience.
Not having previous knowledge of presenting an in-depth reflection on my
experience as part of a group, I missed a few lectures which I believe one of
them must have taught on reflection. Relevant theories had been taught in class
which gave me the basic knowledge of how to tackle writing a reflective essay,
however, lack of working in an actual group setting in a real work situation
contributed to my struggle of understanding some theories and practical
experience. My other downfall to this reflective essay was my lack of writing
down notes during the group meetings although my memory is quite sharp, I
managed to recall the activities that occurred during the meetings.

 

Use of a personal journal to bring
knowledge into leadership/management practice effectively forms a bridge
between theory and practice. The difficulty, it seems, is to balance the theory
of learning with a journal system that is effective for the individual.
Firstly, according to andragogical principles, adult learning is most effective
when participative (Knowles 1978). During meetings, I noticed other member
staking notes of activities as they unfolded and there a lot of reference to
the reflective report which in some situations can create animosity as
individuals can feel they are being closed watched and a negative reflection
will be noted against them.  This can be
directly linked to motivation levels within the group. Motivation can easily
change depending on the group setting and how others are behaving within that
group. In my case my lack of motivation was triggered by not having an
appointed leader and the clash of character with Danni. Also at the very
beginning of the task, I was very expectant of the achieving good results and
being part of the group.

 

Leadership is needed in every new
group, Ito and Brotheridge (2008) state that ‘a performing team is built, it
just doesn’t happen’. In this case our group was a new group with members from
various backgrounds so for the group to perform and achieve its best a leader
was needed. Considering I had expectations for this group, I could have adapted
Bass and Avalios’ (1990) inspirational motivation to lead the team at the
forming stage (Tuckman, 1965) to deliver on the basis of our main goal which
was to succeed. However, not having the real experience of leading a team, I
held back but still expected to achieve a goal although I did put effort in
leading some meetings and proposing ideas.

Keeping a reflective journal
is not going to appeal to everybody like myself and to those who find it
useful, some will prefer a more or less structured approach. Bassot’s (2016)
book ‘The Reflective Journal’ is a good source that offers different approaches
which are beneficial to writing a good journal. In order to utilise the journal
for maximum effectiveness it is necessary to re-visit previous entries and
apply the outcomes to new situations continually. Adjusting behaviour on each
pass will facilitate a higher level of understanding and learning. Some obvious
constraints on this approach are the time required for maintaining the journal
and possible data protection and confidentiality issues. However, with
practice, reflection becomes reflexivity allowing the practising manager to
rise above the perpetual immersion of management. (Maellaro 2013; Mullins &
Christy 2013). To begin, this could be reflection-on-action (Schon 1983)
looking back and analysing events to learn and improve for the future. As
managers become more competent, this can develop into Schon’s
reflection-in-action which is about being able to stand back and evaluate
activities ‘in the moment’ to enable managers to adapt their behaviour to
emerging situations in organisations.

Conclusion

My experience being part of
this group was a learning curve, I observed the structure of the group and the
social inclusiveness of everyone in the group and concluded that, I should have
been more proactive in the group and kept my motivation extrinsic. I should
have been more reflective which would have led me to act differently, reacted
differently to situations and moreover be objective. Viewing this an academic
task that does not carry serious consequences, if, however, this was in a work
environment it would have had a negative impact on my group. My attitude to
carrying out this task would have been deemed extremely negative which would
have left me facing serious issues to deal with. This then reflects on the need
of motivation to study and approach a task with the willingness of wanting to
achieve results, allocation of a leader, avoid conflict and always have a
journal to keep track of events. In a work environment, there would have been
need for intervention from a manager or leader to enable team spirit and
propose motivation theories that can enable the group to achieve results.
Whatever the learning context, I argue that having a bridge between theory and
practice provides the opportunity to effectively combine knowledge and
experience. However, I suggest that knowledge of theory and experience are
insufficient in themselves; the key to successful learning is reflection. Vince
(2008) states that, in most instances, managers do have a learning inaction
which is often resisted by many managers. Not only does reflection reveal
arears of improvement or learning experience, it reveals a wider range of
attributes such as weaknesses, ethical concerns and or political issues. As a
manager or individual, one can start to notice shortcomings, things that should
have been done better, moral dilemmas, how power/influence is used to meet our
own goals at the expense of others. It is only by becoming aware of these that
we can start to modify our behaviour for the better, for individuals, others
and the organisation. Indeed, I can conclude that reflection is a very
important tool and that when used appropriately can help drive any team towards
achieving a targeted goal. Although our group didn’t have a leader, I believe
in the end we all worked towards achieving a good grade and we all learnt new
skills from each other.