Strengths and Weaknesses of the Group
Our group has three significant qualities that cut across as both strengths and weaknesses. First, diversity increases the pool of knowledge and experience, especially about practice. The different backgrounds and experience provide group members with a diversity of scenarios to analyze and to draw reference from. It also increases the length of deliberations and discussions due to the different interpretations that different people have. Second, some members of the group are working. This provides the group with progressive scenarios and cases to deliberate on increasing the understanding of theories and concepts. It however also means that those members are sometimes unable to participate fully in group discussions and activities leaving the rest with a heavier workload. Last, communication channels improved the ease of disseminating information among group members. Social media, cloud applications and Whatsapp all proved to be useful. Though some of our group members are older, they are not so adept at using these tools and can sometimes miss out on important updates and information.
Stages of Group Development. There are five stages of group formation. Our group is currently in the performing stage where we are actively pursuing the accomplishment of our set goals and objectives. This is the third stage of a group’s life cycle. The first stage, the forming stage, was handled by our professor. She divided our class of fourteen into three groups with my group constituting of two gentlemen and three ladies. The significant social and cultural differences in my group due to our diversity coupled with some of my group members holding jobs increased the challenges of our storming stage. Our professor, however, guided us into developing sustainable, equitable and productive structures that helped us in task and role differentiation and labor division. The last stage of group formation is the mourning stage characterized by dissolution of the group upon completion of set goals. This will be at the end of our master’s program. I, however, hope that we maintain our contact because I have come to love my new friends a lot.
Goals. There are significant differences between the education systems in Saudi Arabia and America that make it difficult for us foreign students to understand some concepts of educational administration. The main goal of the group was to help bridge the gap between the two cultures and help us (Saudi international students) to better understand the course content and integrate theory with practice. These exchange further functions to give the group a diverse pool of experience, knowledge and practical information on education administration. This effectively increased the group’s overall understanding of concepts learnt in class and also enabled the teachers in the group to find practical solutions to problems they experience in their day-to-day jobs. The group also functions to support the Arab speakers to integrate into their new environment and culture and to improve their English language skills.
Norms. Our group has three norms that must be followed to the letter. First, each member must attend all lectures without fail or delay. Each member must also complete their assigned tasks and assignments on time to facilitate the discussions we carry out after each task. This has proven effective in assisting each member in understanding better concepts and complete tasks successfully. Second, all members must actively participate in discussions, and they must carry out comprehensive research and write good papers. Comprehensive research provides more content and material to facilitate active and wholesome discussions. This effectively turns each group members into a subject matter specialist. Last, all group members must respect the views and opinions of others and respectfully debate and talk out any differences in opinion to ensure all members’ development of knowledge.
The group is on record to exercise democracy and equality. We like to think of ourselves as the “Knights of the Round Table” of sorts. During our discussions anything goes; anybody can raise any topic, and we will all try to pitch in. The group leader liaison with our professor has in enhancing our group cohesion and performance. Her great personality and ability to make even the mundane things fun have inspired the leadership skills in the group. The group leader prefers the laissez-faire approach where all members are given enough autonomy to ensure they can grow and develop independently effectively ensuring a higher overall group development. Also, the group has faced many unique challenges in it leadership, but this have proven advantageous to the growth of member’s skills, knowledge and experience.
Our master’s program can sometimes be hectic and require additional classes or the teacher handing out extra reading assignments on short notice. Some of our working colleagues can also be called into work at the last minute making it impossible for them to attend class or discussions. We have enhanced our communications channels to enable any member to make such decisions on behalf of the whole group and to make the decision known to all members instantaneously. We have created social media groups and also have a Whatsapp group for the group. This allows every group member to have all pertinent information about classes, assignments, and important notices. All members are also in the student body mailing list and get alerts and notifications on events and happenings around the campus.
Conflicts and how they were Resolved and Managed. Our group has encountered some challenges due to the social and cultural differences brought about by our rich diversity. The group members who have to juggle work, school and family also sometimes find it challenging to meet their group obligations that have many times resulted in conflict. At first, these conflicts threatened the fabric of our group dynamics as some members felt overburdened by the workload as they had to do more to cover the rest who were ‘slacking.’ Tensions ran high, and the group leader had to contact our professor who sat us all down, and everyone opened up about their challenges and why they were unable to meet their expectations. After that, we learnt how to divide tasks better and right now our cohesion is better than ever.
Communication. Communication was challenging in the beginning because of the Saudi’s preference for Arabic while the rest of the class used English. As the group nurtured to learn on the English language we became more connected and we could understand many of the things that brought tension due to misunderstanding. We also had to enhance our communications channels to increase the ease of disseminating information among members. We have active groups on social media and Whatsapp where we hold discussions and exchange pertinent course and school events information. We also maintain close communications with our professor to ensure that we remain on track with our course material, and we perform well on assignments. These open communications channels enhances collaborative problem solving and had been instrumental in better understanding course material and performing better in assignments and tests. It has also enhanced our group’s cohesion.
Roles Different People Played in the Process
My role as a group member was to coordinate group activities among group members. I was also tasked with keeping abreast with activities and events around campus since I was on campus most of the time. Our two working members were tasked with providing the group with real life scenarios and problems to act as case studies for the group. These case studies have been instrumental in helping our group’s members understand course material and integrate practice and theory. The other two were tasked with a compilation of individual group member research and coordinate group member research efforts during collaborative tasks. Securing a venue for meetings and discussions is done by the first person to arrive. Everyone has to carry out their research and write their paper for each group assignments. This gives the group enough material to facilitate comprehensive discussions and ensures the development of a thorough final paper.
The Student’s Role(s) during Group Activities and the Creation, Development and Presentation of the Group’s Final Project
As the group member, I coordinated the group’s efforts in achieving our mandate. Since I am on campus most days and times of the week, I was also responsible for keeping my group members up to date with events and happenings around the school. We opened and maintained a group cloud account where group members would save copies of all the material and websites they had used during their research. This was to help others who wanted to read more about concepts and topics that were in the final paper. Since everyone had to come up with their individual papers, members also had to keep updating their papers on the cloud as they worked on them. This was to enable other members of the group to assess each other’s progress and work without the need for constant meetings. It also ensured that we moved at the same pace.
An Assessment of the Student’s Role(s) in Other Groups (Current and Past). I have always taken a passive role in groups and never really made an effort to contribute actively to discussions. I have however always been punctual in attendance and completing assigned tasks. My involvement in this group has helped me understand what I was doing wrong and just how much I was missing out on by not participating actively. I am involved in other groups on campus like the Muslim Students Association and the International Students Association. I play an active role in discussions and activities to ensure that I play my part in making a positive change in my school for now and for others to come. I am also learning a lot in this way and having loads of fun along the way.
Insights into the Student’s Behaviour as a Group Member. There are many pressures associated with undertaking a master’s degree. It is important to be mindful of other members’ opinions and views. There are many ways of solving a problem, so it is important to exercise patience and tolerance lest you step on people’s toes and ruin the group’s cohesion. Being an active group member has been a challenging, exciting and educative all at the same time. I have learnt to trust in others and also in myself. I have learnt that there is no such thing as a wrong answer if one keeps an open mind. I have learnt how to identify the root causes of a problem so as to avoid wasting time treating symptoms. I have also learnt that to be an active member oe must give up other personal issue for the success of the group.
How the Student Will Apply These Learning to His/ Her Behaviour in Other Groups (Current and Future). I have learnt that it is important to give others the benefit of the doubt. Instead of assuming they are slacking off and not pulling their weight, I should arrange a meeting of all group members and let each person explain what challenges and problems they are facing. This will enable the group to form sustainable and practical solutions that ensure equitable distribution of roles and tasks. This enhances team cohesion and creates an environment where all members can be creative and innovative resulting in better performance on assigned tasks. It is also instrumental in reducing the rate of conflicts which effectively increases the morale of all group members. Having the courage to take on more responsibilities has taught me that it is only by daring that one can be able to get better at the things they have little experience or knowledge in. My language skills are now better than they were when our group started, and I am also able to communicate better both in writing and speaking.
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