COUNS540-20B (BLK)

Working with Groups

30 Points

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Division of Education
Te Kura Toi Tangata School of Education


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Paper Description

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This paper explores the work of group processes with selected groups. Students will be given the opportunity to develop group membership and leadership skills through observation, participation and evaluation during an on campus workshop. A narrative perspective features strongly in the paper.
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Paper Structure

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This 30-point paper (300 hours of study) is an optional paper of the MCouns degree. This paper is open by application to other graduates who demonstrate relevant background and experience. It is structured within B trimester, utilising online group discussions and a one-week (five-day) block course on campus. Please note the first online discussion starts the first week of trimester (13 July 2020). Due to the uncertainty around the effects of Covid-19, and which Alert Level we might be working in, the class has been sorted into two groups for their respective one week block course. Group One runs from 20 July to 24 July 2020, and Group Two runs from 27 July to 31 July 2020. The class meets in Room TT.5.02 from 9.00 am to 5:00 pm each day.

The block course will seek to develop your ability to understand what happens in groups and your ability to offer leadership contributions in groups. Some abilities can only be developed in a climate of experimentation and appropriate risk taking. Practicing with a group of strangers, risking vulnerability, creating safety, receiving genuine support, receiving feedback and feeling closeness to others are important experiences for group leaders. To lead a group it is necessary to appreciate first-hand the challenges of exploring personal content in group interactions. For these reasons, this form of group experience is significant for group leaders. It also needs to be reflected upon, both for its significance for group process and for its implications for group leadership.

Expectations of participants

You will be expected to bring appropriate personal content into the group, especially material that relates to participation in groups and group leadership functioning. Overly safe disclosures often produce boring and tedious interactions. However, self-disclosure should be done with discretion. Please consider the areas of your life that you do not want to disclose so they can remain private. You are requested to:

  • think about what you would like to gain from the experiential aspects of the group in addition to the academic learning.
  • support the learning goals of others in the group.
  • let others know about aspects of yourself in order to reduce the extent to which you may be misunderstood.
  • disclose ongoing persistent reactions toward other members and leaders. Dumping fleeting reactions on others should not be confused with self-disclosure. Persistent feelings one has about another member or about what is happening in the group are shared with great care and diplomacy. People can be honest with tactfulness and sensitivity.
  • disclose experiences that relate to what is going on in the group.
  • think about the discursive influences on what members of the group experience together and on the particular story of events that will emerge as we spend time together. Content areas are identified in the book of readings.


The course will be built upon social constructionist perspectives and will draw upon the narrative metaphor as it has been expounded in the literature on narrative therapy and narrative group work (see for example: Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston (Eds.), 1997).

The following core concepts underpin the course as a whole:

Discourse operates to structure people’s experience, offering them positions from which to relate to each other.

People differ not only in the real conditions and opportunities of their lives but in the stories they draw from to make sense of these differences.

It is within language, or more accurately discourse, that we make meaning (or story our experience) through negotiation with others in our language community. Counselling and psycho-educational groups often provide us with key opportunities to participate in the creation of new meanings, new identity possibilities, or new forms of relationship.

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the paper should be able to:

  • 1. describe their skill development from existing group membership and leadership abilities, to produce effective group work skills
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 2. demonstrate an understanding of some of the social constructionist and narrative approaches to working with groups
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  • 3. practice and give an account of specific group skills for dealing with difficult issues that arise in groups.
    Linked to the following assessments:
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In order to complete the course you will need to:

  • attend 100% of the on campus classroom intensive
  • complete all learning and assessment tasks
  • receive a pass mark in each assessment task.
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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 0% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 0% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Assignment 1
14 Aug 2020
11:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
2. Assignment 2
11 Sep 2020
11:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
3. Assignment 3
9 Oct 2020
11:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
4. Assignment 4
19 Oct 2020
11:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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There is no specific text, but a required list of readings which are available in hard copy as a book of readings for this paper, and can be purchased from Gravitas Waikato Print. These readings are also available through the Library, in the online Waikato Reading Lists.
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Online Support

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If you wish to ask a question about anything to do with the course, you should first consider whether the question is something that may concern others, in which case please use the folder “Questions and inquiries” at the top level online in Moodle. If it is something private to you alone, please use the Private Discussion Space, within the section, “Student’s personal folder”. The Private Discussion Space can be seen only by each individual student and the staff.

There are some very useful online resources aimed at helping you achieve at Student Learning:

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The following are the minimum expectations for students’ workload:

  • 500 Level Paper 300 hours
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Linkages to Other Papers

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This course is available to students enrolled in the MCouns, MEd, PGDipEd, PGDip Couns Studies, PGCert Couns Studies, BA(Hons), BSocSc(Hons), MA and MSocSci degrees.
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Restricted papers: HDCO540

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