For some groupwork is just another way of talking about teamwork. In this context, working in groups is often presented as a good way of dividing work and increasing productivity. It can also be argued that it allows for the utilization of the different skills, knowledge and experiences that people have. As a result, in schools and colleges it is often approached as a skill to be learnt – the ability to work in group-based environments. Within schools and colleges, working in groups can also be adopted as a mean of carrying forward curriculum concerns and varying the classroom experience – a useful addition to the teacher or instructor’s repertoire.
In this article our focus is different. We explore the process of working withgroups both so that they may undertake particular tasks and become environments where people can share in a common life, form beneficialrelationships and help each other. Entering groups or forming them, and then working with them so that members are able be around each other, take responsibility and work together on shared tasks, involves some very sophisticated abilities on the part of practitioners. These abilities are often not recognized for what they are – for when groupwork is done well it can seem natural. Skilled groupworkers, like skilled counsellors, have to be able to draw upon an extensive repertoire of understandings, experiences and skills and be able to think on their feet. They have to respond both quickly and sensitively to what is emerging in the exchanges and relationships in the groups they are working with.
Our starting point for this is a brief exploration of the nature of groups. We then turn to the process of working with. We also try to define groupwork – and discuss some of foci that workers need to attend to. We finish with an overview of the development of groupwork as a focus for theory-making and exploration.
What is a group?
In a separate article we discuss the nature of groups and their significance for...