Stages of Small Group Development
(Adapted from Tuckman’s Stages of Small Group Development)

What is the Forming Stage? The first few weeks of a mentoring group are all about mentees and mentors getting to know each other and figuring out what the group is all about. In this initial “forming” stage, everyone is still deciding if the group is a safe place to be themselves. It is perfectly normal for members to avoid serious conversations or emotions that could make them feel vulnerable. Instead, group members focus on learning about their similarities and differences to other group members. They are beginning to bond with one another and with the group as a whole. Through this bonding, the group begins to establish group cohesion and identity.

What is the Mentor’s Role? In this stage, mentors must help the group to set standards for itself. Mentors and group members work collaboratively to create ground rules about how group members relate to one another and how they will approach their tasks. Mentors need to be prepared for inevitable situations where members test the boundaries of these rules. Mentors can develop positive relationships with mentees and try to help mentees establish positive relationships with each other. The group as a whole can begin to develop a sense of cohesion and identity (e.g., coming up with a special name for the group, creating a sacred space/time). By setting a tone of respect for group standards, mentors can help create an environment where mutual, positive feelings can grow.

What is the Mentee’s Role? The main job of the mentees is to become familiar with one another and the tasks of the group. Mentees will depend on mentors for guidance, but it is critical for mentees to feel a sense of responsibility for setting ground rules. It is normal for mentees to feel some anxiety, guardedness, and a mixture of curiosity and confusion. During this “getting to know you” period, mentees should participate (and encourage others to participate) in the group activities and exercises. It is important for mentees to respect the contributions of all group members no matter how silly, quiet, outspoken, etc. to help establish the group as a safe place for everyone.

How do you know when the group is ready to move to the next stage? The forming stage can be both exciting and confusing. Eventually, the groups objectives start to feel more clear, and members start to feel more committed to the group. Communication between members begins to feel more natural and listening skills improve. Toward the end of the forming stage, group members will begin to feel safe enough to talk through problems and value one another enough to begin working out their issues. While it may feel like an increase in conflict is a bad thing, it can signify that the group is working their way toward the STORMING stage. On the other hand, staying comfortable and conflict-free can be a sign that the group is stagnating, which can lead to lost interest and disconnection. To keep the ball rolling, conflicts should be openly addressed.

Activities: Click here for several activities that are appropriate for the forming stage. These activities will help group members establish positive bonds and start the process of developing group cohesion and identity.



Bonebright, D. A. (2010). 40 years of storming: a historical review of Tuckman’s model of small group development. Human Resource Development International, 13(1), 111–120.

Cassidy, K. (2007). Tuckman Revisited: Proposing a New Model of Group Development for Practitioners. Journal of Experiential Education, 29(3), 413–417.

Hall, T. (2015). Does Cohesion Positively Correlate to Performance in All Stages of a Group’s Life Cycle? Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications & Conflict, 19(1), 58–71.

Lo Coco, G., Gullo, S., Di Fratello, C., Giordano, C., & Kivlighan, D. (2016). Group relationships in early and late sessions and improvement in interpersonal problems. Journal of Counseling Psychologcy, 63(4), 419-428.

Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (2010). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group Facilitation: A Research & Applications Journal, 10, 43–48.