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What is A Group: Defining Groupwork?

Groups may be defined in many ways, indeed providing an absolute definition of a group, as with much of the theory around group work, is highly problematic and contestable. However for the purposes of discussing group work within a context of working with young people we may define a group as a small gathering of young people. Group work may simplistically be described as the study and application of the processes and outcomes experienced when a small group comes together.

Konopka (1963) defines group work as a method of social work that is utilised in order to `help individuals to enhance their social functioning through purposeful group experiences, and to cope more effectively with their personal, group or community problems`. This definition shows a tradition within group work of helping individuals with problems. Brown provides a modernized and more comprehensive definition of group work (1994, p.8). He states that `group work provides a context in which individuals help each other; it is a method of helping groups as well as helping individuals; and it can enable individuals and groups to influence and change personal, group, organizational and community problems` (original emphasis). He goes on to distinguish between `relatively small and neighborhood centered` work and `macro, societal and political approaches` within community work, explaining that only the former may be properly classified as group work.

Thus the role of group work can be seen as one which places emphasis on sharing of thoughts, ideas, problems and activities.



Stages of Group Development

Groups, like individuals are each unique with their own experiences and expectations, however many commentators studying group development and dynamics have recognized that group development, as a generalization, is more predictable than individual behavior. Thus many theories of group stage development have been cultivated, some linear, others more cyclical, and it must be stressed that no definitive model of group stage development exists.

Two of the most useful theories of group stage development are those discussed by Tuckman (1965), and Rogers’s paper on encounter groups (1967). These models, like others