New people are a means to new learnings

Having been in the classroom for the last 9 years teaching drama to middle and high school students, Srividya wanted to expand her practice and explore different ways in which she can use her existing skills in the applied theatre field in India. She shares her experiences and learnings whilst pursuing her MA in Applied Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

These are her notes from a workshop with Generation Arts, London where they were exploring working with hard to reach young people with challenging behaviour – hence some of the words used cater to that group. But she has put together what is more general and is universal to most groups:

According to Bruce Tuckman, there are 5 stages every group goes through in the process of a workshop/time together. They are:

Forming: When a group is new, getting to know each other, starting to form their group roles: the person who always asks questions, the note-taker, the listener, the one who always has doubts, etc. This is when there is a lot of apprehensions and general lack of trust in the group, but also one where the participants are possibly on their best behaviour. This is also when the facilitator needs to sets the rules of the space, expectations, rituals, boundaries, etc. Get the group to do activities that encourage them to work together and get to know one another.

Storming: This is the stage when the roles people take in the group will go through a phase of negotiation and adjustment. This could lead to battle of wills, lower self-confidence. At this stage, participants need not be on their “best behaviour”, as they would be during the forming stage. Here, the facilitator needs to lead/direct the group to do activities that help in building their confidence. This is the stage when the facilitator definitely has to carry out any consequences they may have set out at the beginning to ensure there is a sense of structure to what may otherwise seem less structured or “chaotic”.

Norming: This is the stage in which the group is settled. They know what the norm is and the process is shared by both the facilitator as well as the participants. Behaviours are less volatile and participants are more accepting. They are also more confident and more trusting. But this is also the stage where it is important for the facilitator to challenge the participants to keep them on their feet and not allow them to get bored.

Performing: This is the stage at which they are functioning as a group. Doing a job. Here, the stress of the facilitator is in managing the participants’ emotions and stress of working towards the culmination of the workshop or the “big show”. It is also very important at this stage to ensure your stress as a facilitator is not transferred to your participants. Your role as a facilitator may change at this point as being the director, producer or production manager of this culmination, so it is important more than ever to look after yourself and set your own boundaries.

Adjourning: This is end of the workshop, when you say goodbye to a process. It is important at this point to celebrate what the participants have achieved and to bring it to a closure. Depending on your learners, this could be the hardest part for a facilitator to deal with.

It is important to note that as facilitators going in to schools, the cohort we are working with could be at any of the stages listed above, so it is important for us as facilitators to gauge which stage our participants are at, and also important to recognise the fact that if you are new in the space, they could be going through the storming stage all over again with you! But once you have recognised the stage your group is at, how do you as facilitators then choose to negotiate your role in the space?