The Skilled Helper

8 August 2016

The Skilled Helper PP0514 21st March 2013 Word Count: 1842 Critical analysis: Planning and facilitating group work I have been asked to plan and run a series of group activities for a purpose group of my choice. This discussion will provide a critical analysis of my planning and facilitation of the group. It will demonstrate an understanding of the skills required to meet this task, and the rationale for the choice of group activities and approaches selected. I will support the discussion with reference to relevant underpinning theory demonstrating an understanding of key factors.

Since the introduction of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in 1974, certain criminal convictions need not be disclosed to employers, when applying for a job after a certain period of rehabilitation. The act was primarily introduced to prevent lifelong joblessness as a result of a single conviction. Each year however, “approximately 650,000 people are released from prison with their time served, and their debt to society supposedly repaid. For most of them, even the most minor of crimes can result in a life sentence of unemployment.

The Skilled Helper Essay Example

Guardian 2012) Various government schemes have been established to rehabilitate ex-offenders in to the community and provide training. However, the Ministry of Justice (2011) suggest colleges and training providers are not always receptive to the needs of offenders, and the way their needs should be met, including a “roll on, roll off provision. ” The document also suggests that providers often complain that probation trust referral arrangements are not always satisfactory. (Great Britain.

Ministry of Justice, 2011) Rehabilitation into communities and employment can be challenging due to a number of issues including; stigma, lack of, accommodation, training, help, support and advice. These all contribute to reoffending rates in some UK prisons, topping 70% according to The Guardian (2010). Due to a keen interest in the rehabilitation of ex-offenders into the community, I facilitated a series of four consecutive workshops providing impartial help and advice on issues such as; housing, support groups within the community, creating Curriculum Vitaes and applying for work or voluntary placements.

I named the group “starting over” and advertised sessions within job centres, community centres, and the probation service. Whitaker (1976) suggests; “A group is more likely to be successful if it is conducted in an organisation or institutional context in which other personnel, not directly involved with the group, nevertheless accept and support its aims and general procedures, and value its potential contribution to the shared goals of the institution or organisation. ” (Whitaker 1976, p.423) For this reason I chose to hold the sessions in the local job centre. As the facilitator I aimed to encourage the group in their work but to be responsible for the process not the content of the session. I applied a “solution focused” approach, focusing on the strengths of the individuals within the group rather than the problems they may face. Before the sessions could commence I researched my prospective client group. Group work should bring together people who are equals in terms of “abilities, experiences, achievement’s etc. ” (Matthews & Ross 2010 p.248) If the education or communication ability of the participants is mixed, participants may not feel comfortable discussing interests or achievements. Greif and Ephross (2011, p. 320) Suggest the “emphasis is on balance and compatibility. ” By attempting to create a homogeneous mixture of participants within each group, the comfort of the participants may increase when discussing sensitive topics. Facilitating group work to “vulnerable adults” such as prisoner’s, (safeguarding matters 2011) gives rise to ethical issues, I may not confront using other client groups.

Greene & Hogan (2011, p. 240) recommends that it is the moderators responsibility to take all necessary steps to safeguard the participants. He proposes that the facilitator should discuss confidentiality with the group and request that all disclosures are not discussed with non-participants. Hill (1998, p. 239) advises that the moderator tells the group that it is “alright to say something very general about the topics discussed but not to give details and not to identify what any individual has said.

I discussed confidentiality at the beginning of the first session during the contract. The contract also addressed issues such as; the aims of the session, the methods we would be using, practical arrangements such as time, place, duration and rules e. g. respecting other group members’ opinions and a no violence policy. In order to prevent a power divide between participants and facilitator, Mauthner (1997, p. 19) suggests taking a “flexible approach to the session and allowing the group to set their own goals and talk about their daily life”.

At the beginning of each session I gave the group some time to raise anything they would like to discuss or cover in the session. At the time I felt by allowing the group to take charge of the session each morning I was taking a “flexible” approach, alternatively this perhaps appeared unstructured and unprofessional. Having analysed the situation I think if I were to carry out the workshops again I would discuss the daily agenda first and then ask for any input or amendments. Another technique to minimise a power divide suggested by Vernelle (1994) is to set out the chairs in circles.

“In a circle there is equality, no one is further than two links away from anyone else. There is no clear central member. ” (Vernelle 1994, p. 14) I feel this was useful and worked well. “Normalising” which involves talking to clients about their concerns, as though they are within the normal range of life events, can help lessen anxieties and the feeling of being an “outsider” or “odd” (Winbolt 2011). This technique does not involve playing down or dismissing the clients concerns, however, acknowledging the difficulty without sharing their sense of alarm.

Clients often think they are the only people in the world with their particular problem, so by helping them to understand that others have shared the same problem and discussing it in every day terms, it allows the client to feel more able to discuss their problem. I chose a case study activity as I felt it integrated this technique, allowing me to acknowledge individual concerns whilst demonstrating positive outcomes. “There are certain times when summaries prove particularly useful: at the beginning of a new session, when the session seems to be going nowhere, and when the client needs a new perspective”.Egan 2007, p. 133) I found that summarising throughout and at the end of the session was particularly useful, not only for the group but for myself, this helped tie things together allowing me to assess what we had covered and what still had to be done. Group work has many benefits including the opportunity for participants to integrate with each other. Vaughn et al. (1996) claim that the support offered to individuals within a group allows the participants greater openness in their responses.

However, NCB (2011) suggest that within a group, participants may feel inhibited to provide personal information or feel obliged to provide socially acceptable responses. This is something I observed at the beginning of the first session, with participants seeming detached, avoiding eye contact and appearing unwilling to participate. I used an icebreaker at the beginning of each session as an opportunity to; introduce the group, help to put them at ease and encourage them to talk and share ideas. Elwyn et al (2001, p.12) suggests that when using icebreakers, personalities will begin to surface and it will become obvious to the facilitator and the rest of the group which roles individuals are undertaking. Possible roles within a group include the “encourager” who rewards others through praise and agreement, the ‘leader’, who has allot of input, the ‘elaborator’, who gives additional information and the “opinion giver” whose role is to provide opinions, feelings and personal values. (Forsyth, 1999 p127) The icebreaker was also beneficial during the first stage of the “Forming, Norming, Storming and Preforming” model proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965.

Tuckman describes “a four stage model in which each stage needs to be successfully navigated in order to reach effective group functioning”. During “Forming”, the first stage of the model, the group aren’t familiar with each other and there is no trust. Subsequently “each member of the team focuses on the leader, accepting only the leader’s guidance and authority and maintaining a polite but distant relationship with the others. ” (Wilson 2010, p. 2) The ice breaker helped to bring the group together and build an element of familiarity with each other. Tuckman’s second stage of group development is characterised by conflict.

Team members are more concerned with the impression they are making than the project in hand; wanting to be respected, battling with feelings of inadequacy, wondering who will support or undermine them, and above all proving to the leader their value to the team. ” (Wilson 2010, p. 2) These behaviours serve as resistance to group influence and task requirements. In order to maintain control over this stage I aimed to keep everyone focused and organised. I ensured everyone was aware of their role and duty within the group by asking them to encapsulate their understanding of the task, andanswered any questions as clearly and concisely as possible. Resistance is overcome in the third stage “norming” when relationships and trust are established between group members. The group start working together to achieve unified results. At this stage as the facilitator should support the group’s communication in a less directive manner. The third stage became apparent during a task in the second session. The task involved working together in teams to plan a poster providing reasons why ex-prisoners should be given a second chance in the community and employment and what skills they had to offer.

The group worked well supporting each other and the atmosphere was positive. The final stage of Tuckman’s model “preforming” is a time of intense team productivity and effectiveness. Having resolved many of the issues of previous stages the team can focus its energy on completing the task. All students have varied preferred learning styles therefore, it was important for me to use various teaching methods to meet student’s individual needs and keep them interested.

To accommodate all learners I used a range of activities including; videos, group work and case studies for the “auditory” learners who’s “perceptual mode describes a preference for information that is heard or spoken”. Graphs, written instructions and hand-outs for “visual” learners, whose preferred learning styles include “designs, whitespace, patterns, shapes and the different formats that are used to highlight and convey information” and role play scenarios for “Kinesthetic” learners whose “perceptual preference relates to the use of experience and practice (simulated or real). ” (Fleming & Mills, 1992, pp.140-141)  In conclusion one of the most significant experiences was learning how diverse individuals preferred learning styles are. Individuals, who struggled to integrate with group work tasks, rose to the challenge of other tasks such as interview preparation and creating cover letters. Summarising throughout allowed me to gain perspective on what still needed to be achieved and gave me an opportunity to ensure everyone understood what they were meant to be doing.

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