There are several considerations for group mentors to address depending on the developmental stage of the group. Below, you will find a brief description of Tuckman’s four stages of group development (forming, storming, norming and performing). Tuckman, an educational psychologist, developed these stages to address two major factors of group processes: interpersonal relationships and tasks. For more information about each stage and several ideas for appropriate activities, click on the stage name.
1. Forming: This is the initial stage when the group comes together and members begin to develop their relationship with one another and learn what is expected of them. In this stage, team building begins and trust starts to develop. Group members will start establishing limits on acceptable behavior through experimentation. Other members’ reactions will determine if a behavior will be repeated. This is also the time when the goals and tasks of the group and the members will be decided.
2. Storming: During this stage of group development, interpersonal conflicts arise and differences of opinion about the group and its goals will surface. If the group is unable to clearly state its purposes and goals or if it cannot agree on shared goals, the group may collapse at this point. It is important to work through the conflict at this time and to establish clear goals. It is necessary for there to be discussion so everyone feels heard and can come to an agreement on the direction the group is to move in.
3. Norming: Once the group resolves its conflicts, it can now establish patterns of how to get its work done. Expectations of one another are clearly articulated and accepted by members of the group. Formal and informal procedures are established in delegating tasks, responding to questions, and in the process by which the group functions. Members of the group come to understand how the group as a whole operates.
4. Performing: During this final stage of development, issues related to roles, expectations, and norms are no longer of major importance. The group is now focused on its task, working intentionally and effectively to accomplish its goals. The group will find that it can celebrate its accomplishments and that members will be learning new skills and sharing roles. After a group enters the performing stage, it is unrealistic to expect it to remain there permanently. When new members join or some people leave, there will be a new process of forming, storming, and norming engaged as everyone learns about one another. External events may lead to conflicts within the group.
All good things must come to an end. Read about how to end your group and say goodbye here: Adjourning.
For more on the stages of group development and links to practical guidance on how to move through the stages visit http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_86.htm
Information adapted from:
Komives, S., Lucas, N., McMahon, T. (1998). Exploring Leadership For College Student Who Want to Make a Difference. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers
Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group and Organization Studies 2, 4, 419–27