four phases of group formation in the classroom

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four phases of group formation in the classroom

The four phases of group formation are not new but come from the American psychologist Bruce Tuckman. In 1965 he described the formation of groups in different teams such as army units, groups of friends or sports teams. Bijleveld: “Fifteen years ago, a colleague of mine Frans Meijer developed a training course on this method of group formation especially for education. It became very popular. Many schools now use this and it is a household name in education.”

The four phases are roughly as follows. During the day forming the children get to know each other and the teacher and the class together draw up new rules. “Together, the class determines what is important to them, but also how they can react if a child breaks the rules. It is also the period when the children are still a bit hesitant. They still look the cat out of the tree.” And precisely by agreeing all the rules in the beginning, the next phase will run more smoothly.

Parent discussions are also part of this phase, Bijleveld believes. “Parents have a wealth of information about their child. By talking early in the school year, you build a relationship and as a teacher you can also make contact more quickly if things are not going well.”

Crowds during storming

After that acquaintance, the storming at. During this phase, the relationships become clear. That doesn’t always go smoothly or calmly. “That’s why we call this the conflict phase,” says Bijleveld. “Pupils are looking for boundaries to experience where they are. They look – sometimes literally – to see who is the strongest. Jokes are made. That creates collisions and friction.” This unrest is not always the easiest phase for the teacher. “But it helps if you know what to expect and if agreements have been made earlier with the class that you can fall back on. By properly guiding this phase, you can actually move on to the next phase, norming bring forward.”

Classes that get stuck in this phase often remain very restless. Bijleveld: “During the lessons there is constant arguing or laughing. That can be very tiring for a teacher and also not good for safety in the group.”

During the norming the relationships are clear and the children get to know each other better and better. They behave according to the rules that have been jointly agreed upon. Bijleveld: “As a teacher it is important that you also set a good example. If, for example, it has been agreed that no one will be excluded, then also give attention to that child that you find difficult.”

Peace returns

After about six weeks, the class reaches the performing phase. “The class forms a unit and works together in a way that is characteristic of this group.” Peace has returned, but not always until the end of the school year, Bijleveld warns. Because sometimes things change in a class. For example, when a new child comes or a different teacher. “Research shows that the group is going back a few steps to go through the phases again.” Bijleveld also wrote a book about that The silver weeks coming out this month.

And yes, group formation always happens, even if you as a teacher do not actively guide you through the different phases. “But the advantage of working with the different phases is that you can storming better regulate and norming stimulate earlier”, says Bijleveld. For example, calm returns to the classroom sooner and there is a greater chance that students will feel safer and more comfortable in their own skin.

Less bullying

Teacher and blogger Maike Douglas of jufmaike.nl has been using the golden weeks for several years. “I noticed that it makes for nicer groups.” She sees that children are more involved with each other, help each other better and are also more daring in the classroom. In addition, there is less bullying and children exclude each other less often. “By reflecting on group formation, the children develop a better bond with each other and they feel safer.”

During the first three weeks of school, Douglas schedules two to three group activities per day. “Then I am less focused on the teaching material and more on group formation.” Every day, for example, a student is in the spotlight. He or she may then tell about themselves in front of the class. “Or I do ‘find someone who’ where the children have to ask each other about their hobbies or home situation. In this way they discover common ground with each other.”

Team building in the classroom

After those first weeks, the storming loose, Douglas also experiences. “The children are then very busy and sometimes there is talk of bullying.” During those weeks, the teacher talks a lot with the children. “I ask them how I can help them as a teacher to pay better attention or discuss the consequences of bullying in class.” In addition, she uses energisers, short, physical games that ensure team building. “For example, we throw wads of paper at each other or the children are instructed to stand in a circle by stepping through a hoop, without letting go of their hands.”

Through all these activities, the teacher notices that she can better supervise and control group formation. Douglas: “If you don’t do that, you will see that the children will create their own groups. You should actually be ahead of that so that no one is left out.”

After the first turbulent weeks, less attention is paid to group formation. Until the Christmas holidays: “The children have been home for two weeks and have had many parties.” Douglas again plans games and activities in those first weeks of the year. “That helps everyone get back into it.”

By: National Education Guide / Marjolein Kooyman

four phases of group formation in the classroom
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