Group Dynamics In the Classroom & Beyond
Our human relationships are as natural and wonderful as the earth, wind and flowers.
Image credit: Joe Ormonde
Yet, nature is often challenged by its own harsh elements and tempestuous reality.
So it is with relationships,
………. and so it is with learning, socialising and managing group dynamics.
As we all know, our natural potential as human beings can be hampered, stunted or oppressed by hardship and misunderstanding.
This article takes what we already know about empathy and explores how we can cultivate superior learning relationships within group settings.
What do we do to create the right conditions for effortless relationships to flourish naturally?
As teachers we can hope to be embued with seasonal inspiration & the natural gifts of learning through rapport-building, creativity experiments and the driving force of challenge.
But, just as Nature can become unbalanced through dire circumstances, so can our relationships, minds, hearts, and our ability to reach out, learn and thrive.
Though nature may sometimes be harsh, it’s always beautiful at its core. Behind the most beautiful natural phenomena lie the science, psychology, and DNA of life.
We can learn from the science of life so as to burst into new paradigms of WOW!!
Today I’m sharing insights from two books I’ve been reading so far this summer, and which go deeper into a theme I presented recently on WiziQ.
Most of the focus here actually comes from one particular chapter (16), in a book by Tim Murphey called “Teaching In Pursuit of WOW”.
There are also further insights from a book called ‘Group Dynamics in the classroom’, though its many concepts are way beyond the scope of one blog post. Therefore, rather than go deeply into what these books teach us, I’m mapping and sharing the highlights of what makes groups tick.
This article focuses on group dynamics in the classroom – ( and beyond), as the classroom as we once knew it will soon cease to exist.
To learn more about ‘beyond’, please visit this article to some wise words by David Deubelbeiss.
A map of Group Agency and Aspiration Contagion, as coined by Tim Murphey.
This map depicts the fact that we learn better in groups than we do alone. There is a wonderful story here in chapter 16 of Murphey’s WOW book which illustrates how self-defeating we can be alone and how wildly inspired we can be when we have partners in ‘creative’ crime. The story is best reviewed in this article by Nick Michelioudakis, where Nick says:
“Picture a bench sitting dutifully on the pavement where it was originally placed. At some point it decides it could do with a suntan. Having made up its mind that its location is not optimal, it moves a few paces to make sure it stays in a well-lit spot. Then it does it again and again, until it rests smack in the middle of the road! Now add two people to the bench, blithely chatting to each other enjoying the warmth of the setting sun. One of them is Dr Tim Murphey and this is just one of the weird and wonderful images one can find in ‘Teaching in Pursuit of WOW!’ (p. 62)
The story above is about two men doing something slightly bizarre together that they would never have done alone for fear of losing face.
As I was planning my thoughts for this article yesterday, I saw something similar regarding group contagion happening with my kids at the beach. My kids can swim like fish and race around the mountains like goats because they’ve been brought up on an island. Yet, what seems natural to us often causes tourists to stop and stare.
I was sitting on the beach with my notebook and my kids had found some nearby rocks to dive from. A couple of fully-grown men with plenty of hair on their chests stood transfixed by the show my little ones were putting on. Then they began to say “if those little kids can jump, so can we.” So they clambered clumsily up on the rocks and took quite some time in urging each other on to jump. By this time my kids had finished diving and came back to the beach to watch how the men were doing. They were full of giggles and amusement, especially when more and more people started heading for the rocks to start jumping in.
The funny thing was that just as I’d started making notes on social contagion, I realised that there it was happening before my eyes, which reminds me of this…….
The individual versus the group:
When we work alone we are more likely to be plagued by limiting beliefs, while these same beliefs can seem trivial within a jovial atmosphere of group synergy. Within positive groups settings our beliefs can evolve, change and become something new. Group influence can spur us on to actually go walk-about with our social brains. This is where collaboration, project work and creative learning activities come into their own. The books above share lots of ideas for practical group activities in traditional classrooms, while online learning has inspired me to write many blog posts and present many webinars on creativity through technology and the world wide web.
Magical bonds & social brains:
The support of a learning group facilitates magic. The warm vibes of a group has enough power to make a student take that one leap of faith that’s necessary to leave the solitary comfort zone of self-restricted learning.
Murphey shares a great quote by Barchas (1986)
“Small groups are powerful, not so much because of the greater numbers of hands, but rather the imagining of multiple minds realizing the potential of inter-mental collaboration”
All of this should lead us to question our schools, curricula, materials and course structures, and not question them alone. It should lead us to form groups to question and critically push the boundaries of our limited experiences. That’s what personal learning networks are for, of course.
It’s already happening in massive scales online. The latest in professional development is the iTDi summer school for teachers.
It should also open us up to what’s possible and what’s already being done by educators around the world with music, art, kinaesthetic learning, collaborative story-telling, web quests, inter-school collaborations, massive open online courses, and self-organised learning environments.
I recently interviewed Theodora Papapanagiotou and Nick Maragkos about kinaesthetic learning, fitness and its influence on classroom dynamics. Watch and enjoy.
I have written about most of these topics in previous articles. To read my previous articles and see my past presentations on related topics, please check out my
I’ll leave you with a question:
How can you create ‘social contagion’ scenarios like the diving story, ‘magic beyond comfort zone’ image and ‘start a movement’ video?
Have you already done it?
Please share your ideas below:))
Finally to see what else I’m reading check here.