Students at risk are those vulnerable to expulsion owing to their weak academic performance. In the recent past, scholars have been engaging in constant research to establish some of the factors that predispose students to poor academic performance, which dispose them to risks of being expelled from school.
It is established that some conditions expose new college students from high school to poor results, making college life more difficult. Some of these factors are related to the school environment while others are directly associated with the peer group.
The peer group influences the performance of an individual even in their social life. Peer pressure may force a student to engage in activities that are parallel to the academic standards. These factors cause a major drop in grades while in extreme cases, student’s think of dropping out of school.
For the group that I intend to work with, the major problem is to help them avoid academic probation and possible expulsion from college due to ongoing poor academic performance. York College City University of New York administration puts SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge) students whose grade point average is below a 2.4 on academic probation.
Therefore, the main challenge is to ensure that students achieve the desired grade point average of 2.5 or above. Since students are disinterested in attending the mandated workshops, I intend to come up with strategies that would help in encouraging the students to join The SEEK Academic Challenge for Excellence (ACE) group.
The group will be aiming at recruiting freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who are in the SEEK Program, and their performance is not satisfactory. The main challenge for these students is that they are first-generation college students. They have little skills as regards to academic life in college (Oldfield, 2012).
I chose to form a group that would benefit students academically because students attain low grades not because they are mentally weak, but because of some factors that predispose them to poor performance. Some of the issues that the group seeks to address include time management, study skills, encouragement/empowerment, recognizing strengths, and goals.
The school environment has a role to play as far as improvement of grades is concerned. Lecturers should come up with advanced or refined instructional plans in case they realize that some students need special attention (Yalom, & Leszcz, 2005).
In a class set up, not all students are in a position to comprehend the course material at the same pace. It is upon the school administration to ensure that the lesson plans cater to the needs of all students, including the disabled and the vulnerable.
Tutors should understand the problems facing students and come up with adequate measures to resolve the problems. This would be another area of focus since the group will come up with ways through which instructional plans and pedagogical strategies would be adjusted.
Benefits of Using Group Approach
In modern society, issues affecting individuals are resolved inside groups mainly because of the efficiency and effectiveness of the group. People organize meetings and informal discussions whereby they express their views and ideas in an attempt to resolve the issue at hand.
In the group that I am just to form, members share similar problems because they are all at risk of being sent to academic probation owing to poor performance. Their main concern is to improve their academic grades to prevent being put on probation. If utilized fully, groups can address the issues affecting the population. In this case, groups should be used in the right place and at the right time.
It should be noted that groups are not always successful in all scenarios. Groups are only used under special circumstances. In this regard, some factors must be considered before deciding whether to use group intervention.
For instance, the social worker must consider whether the issue that affects students could be explained in various ways. In the case given, the issue can be defined variously meaning that the group approach would be applied successfully (Weisman, 2000).
Moreover, the issue at hand needs information from various sources because a single problem does not cause the underperformance of students. Since information is to be sourced from various places, group approach is the perfect model. The problem under scrutiny is a special problem implying that the services of an expert would not be enough to explain it.
Indeed, the expert could be biased because he or she may have a narrower understanding, which means the solutions reached would be restricted. Finally, the group approach would be productive for students because the problem affects all of them.
Some of the benefits of group approach include greater output and cross-fertilization. Students will give various opinions on how to improve academically. Each student has his or her own experiences, views, values, and knowledge regarding the problem.
Therefore, the contribution of many students would be necessary to understand the problem from various viewpoints. Cross-fertilization means that the views of another person could be used to generate an idea. In other words, it would give members an opportunity to brainstorm ideas.
Another benefit is that the group approach does not have biases as compared to an expert approach. In case biases come about, Swifach and Heft-LaPorte (2007) observed that the group could easily counter them. The pressure of the group forces an individual to embrace change.
In a group setting, members are willing to take risks as compared to an expert or other approaches. Members are more realistic in a group approach because they are aware that their ideas would be assessed and would be analyzed so carefully.
The group approach is beneficial because members are highly committed to the exercise as compared to the expert approach whereby an individual believes the expert has a solution to his or her problem.
Since members would be suffering from similar problems, they would be willing to communicate freely as compared to an expert approach whereby an individual would be reluctant to give all details in fear of retribution. Finally, the group approach facilitates the designing of better solutions.
Preferred Type of Group Approach
The type of social group to be established is secondary because the emotional ties between students are very weak. Students would be forming the group to address the main problem, which is avoiding academic probation and improving academic performance.
However, the approach would take social identification approach (Social Goals Model) as compared to social cohesion approach. The group would not be defined based on expressions, but instead, the definition would be based on perceptual or cognitive processes.
Under the model, it is assumed that students would be keen to act or work together generally because of the existence of a regular type of membership. A group, in this case, would have conceptualized some of the values that would act as a guiding principle towards the attainment of common goals and values.
The group would be aiming at improving its performance other than strengthening emotional ties. In other words, a group member would be aiming at answering the question ‘who am I’ instead of ‘who am I attracted to.’ The main purpose of the group would be to cultivate necessary skills that would help members to develop academically (Cohen, Doel, Quirke, Ring, & Ruwaida, 2012).
The above approach is derived from the social identity theory, which states that an individual’s self-concept is obtained from the supposed membership in an appropriate social group. The theory explains the behavior of individuals in intergroup behavior.
The group to be formed would be an intergroup because members would be drawn from various groups. The students were faced with expulsion could be members of other groups, which might even be primary groups that social cohesion approach would be used to understand them.
The theory explains the differences that could emerge within the group owing to the differences in status. The theory posits that the in-group member would pursue a goal that fulfills his or her interest instead of the interests of the whole group.
In this regard, the individual may decide to be a member of an intergroup mainly to fulfill his or her interests. In the group that I intend to form, members would be drawn from various social classes and categories from freshmen to juniors because underperformance is not restricted to class or category. A member from any in-group, irrespective of gender, class, and status, would join freely.
Challenges Associated with Group Intervention
Leading a group is one of the most challenging tasks that a social worker can come across. This is mainly because members of the group come from different backgrounds, with varying values, beliefs, experiences, and principles. The main role of the social worker is to ensure that the group comes together to accomplish the main task.
For this kind of group, finding a common ground that would enable each student to express his or her ideas freely is a major problem. Students come from different backgrounds meaning that the causes of their academic underperformance are not similar.
Therefore, the social worker should come up with a common strategy aiming at improving the performance of the student, irrespective of the ethnic or racial background. This would demand that each student compromises to suit into the common strategy (Birnbaum, & Cicchetti, 2005).
It is established that challenges would vary from motivating students, encouraging them to pursue the common goals, and ensuring that they are managed well. These are serious challenges that may overpower the social worker if adequate strategies are not adopted. Students should be encouraged to work together to achieve the main goal.
Without motivation, it would be difficult to achieve the desired results because students would even be reluctant to attend the meetings and discussions. The group would not go far in case members lack interest. Only interested members would be willing to pursue a common goal. The social worker must work so closely with students to achieve the desired results.
The social worker should first ensure that students are satisfied in the group by providing an enabling environment. For the agency context (the school), the students should be given learning strategies that are consistent with the provisions of the school rules and regulations. Motivation should be conducted in a way that would be beneficial to the school.
Members of the group should be encouraged to liaise with their professors and other school administrators whenever they have an issue that threatens their academic life. The school administration has a critical role to play as far as the academic improvement of students is concerned.
A solution cannot be reached without involving the school administration in discussions. The teaching staff should be consulted to give their views on the possible direction that the social worker should take to ensure that students improve. Lecturers know their students because they interact with them weekly.
Regarding the community, the specific unit to be involved in the formulation of policies is the peer group. The peer group should be made to understand that supporting each other is the only way that would help them in achieving success.
Some peer groups rarely support each other, yet they expect strong results in their academic performance. The student needs to be motivated by all stakeholders, including the peer group and the school. For the clients, the challenges related to motivation and encouragement is better resolved by providing role models. The challenges are better addressed through encouraging communication among key stakeholders, as well as motivating members to take action whenever they feel that something is wrong.
The social context in this sense represents the environment in which the interactions between group members would take place. The social environment has a significant impact on the behavior of members because it shapes their aspirations and objectives.
One of the social contexts in my group is the mission of the institution. The main mission of the college is to achieve academic excellence by eliminating poor performance. The school shapes the behavior of students because it makes them work harder.
Another social factor to be considered is the attitude of the school towards the group. The attitude of the school is already negative since it perceives that these students are academically challenged who should be sent home or they need to join other institutions.
One role of the social worker is to change the attitude of the school (Berger, 2009). The school needs to develop a positive attitude towards the group. One other factor to consider is the specific needs of students meaning that each student’s aspirations and objectives should be put into consideration when forming the ACE group.
This refers to the problems, issues, wants, and major concerns of group members. In this case, the needs of the group to be formed include emotional support and academic skills that would help them achieve high grades in various subjects.
It should be noted that both individual and group needs must be evaluated carefully before coming up with some of the strategies to mitigate the problems. The role of the worker would be to identify the needs of students, the current strategies being applied to resolve the problems, and establish effective strategies to enable students to improve academically.
It is suggested that the needs of the client should always be prioritized, as opposed to individual aspirations (Berger, 2009)). The group is under a serious threat of being disbanded from the school; hence all efforts should be towards preventing probation.
The purpose refers to the specific and general objectives of the group. Without the purpose, the group would not do not have a specific agenda. The group would be put up specifically to improve academic performance.
However, other general objectives such as strengthening each other emotionally and talking about other issues that affect youths in modern society, including social relationships would be of the essence. It is factual that many young adults in the institutions of higher learning are faced with numerous problems, which leads to poor performance.
Therefore, it is the role of the social worker to establish some of these problems and incorporate them into the main objectives of the group (Berger, 2009). The social worker will work hard to ensure that personal differences do not affect the group. In other words, the social worker will come up with a collective objective for all members.
Apart from establishing the major purpose for the group, the social worker has a role of ensuring that the group is accepted both socially and legally by keeping in mind the required composition of the group. The group should include both genders for it to be accepted.
When forming the group, I will ensure that the number is reasonable meaning that it is manageable. A group with an extensive membership is sometimes difficult to control meaning that it would be difficult for it to achieve some of the missions.
I will also ensure that ethnicity and issues related to race are taken into consideration since forming a group consisting only one race or ethnic group would be unlawful. As earlier noted, the group will be an open group because it would be disbanded after the accomplishment of the major objective. Those targeted are students at risk who are between 18-25 years. However, only those students with perceived similar goals and objectives would be encouraged to join the group.
The structures of the group entail the organization of members into units for management purposes. The group would have a specified time limit whereby it would be in place until the time when each student will attain the required grade to prevent him or her from being subjected to probation.
Moreover, the group will decide on the number of times that it will be meeting each week. This is upon the realization that the performance of students can only improve if they frequently meet to share their achievements and some of the challenges that might arise as they continue with their program.
In terms of the sitting arrangement, the group will adopt the classroom setting whereby the social worker will be acting as a teacher, and the students will express their issue of concern one after the other. In other words, the sessions will be very interactive.
The content refers to some of the materials that the social worker will employ in ensuring that students receive the best service. The group will utilize discussions on the importance of attendance and share other critical information on academics. At times worker will provide handouts on time/stress management, study skills, and information on how to be successful in college. Students are welcome to share other problems that may be affecting their academic success.
Formation strategy refers to the process of recruiting members to the group. In this regard, members will be allowed to join the group without necessarily subscribing. However, a critical assessment will be conducted to establish whether the interested individual is affected by academically.
The main aim of the group is to improve the performance of students meaning that only those with grade point averages below a 2.5 and considered “At Risk” would be encouraged to join. The worker will reach out to students through flyers, emails, and phone calls.
The worker will arrange an appointment to meet with students individually and have them fill out a questionnaire that asks open-ended questions. Based on the data from the questionnaire, the worker will conduct her discussions. Questionnaires are anonymous. However, they are required to identify their category as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior.
For any group to prosper, a thorough evaluation should be conducted. This entails analyzing the performance of the group to ensure that the goals and the set objectives are achieved within the stipulated time. In case it is found out that the group is performing as initially intended, the strategies are adjusted to ensure that desired results are achieved.
The group can as well be disbanded if the main objective is not being achieved. The evaluation takes place before, during, and after the program. The worker will evaluate the student’s progress by reviewing their grades at the end of the semester.
I utilized three materials to understand the process of group formation in social work. The book by Yalom and Leszcz gave some of the basic skills needed in establishing a strong group, which would indeed achieve its objectives. One of the three readings was a book while the other was a peer-reviewed journal article.
The book by Yalom and Leszcz gave the theoretical basis while the journal served as an example in forming the group. Theoretically, the formation of a group entails the understanding of the dynamics of various forms of groups such as primary and secondary groups.
Each form of a group has a general purpose, which is always similar in all categories of social groups. However, it is the role of the social worker to ensure that the group attains the desired goals at the right time and within the stipulated time.
I realized that my group would be a secondary type because students do not know each other emotionally. They come from various social backgrounds, but they have to work together to achieve their academic dreams. The article by Marsiglia, Pena, Nieri, and Nagoshi (2010) gave me the real steps that are to be followed in establishing a group.
The article by Weisman (2000) was also of value because it talks about the programs that are always utilized in the field of social work. The scholar gives some of the social work curriculums in social work, which include group intervention strategies.
In the first meeting with the members of the group, the main agenda would be to introduce myself to the members. The members will also introduce themselves, as well as their academic problems. This comes upon the realization that students underperform because of various problems.
Some students do not engage in private studies while others have problems concentrating in class. Others lack encouragement because of peer issues and issues related to socialization (Bergel, & Clements, 2010). Understanding the issues affecting each student would be critical in designing intervention strategies.
In the first session, students will be encouraged to give their views without the fear of intimidation. They will be informed that their problems will only be resolved if they describe them in detail. As earlier noted, the first session will be interactive whereby each person is given a considerable time to express him or herself in detail.
The social worker will play the role of the moderator whereby all views will be recorded, and further clarifications will be sought from students. The main goal in the first session would be to understand the real problems affecting the students, which lead to underperformance in class. It should be understood that underperformance is attributed to several factors. Others perform poorly because they lack support, while others have serious time management and study skills issues.
Three Major Critical Skills
The three major critical skills include storming, forming, and adjourning. These three skills have been proved to work effectively in the formation of groups, especially in the first stages. Forming stage refers to directing the group and ascertaining objectives in a clear manner.
This would be executed through the establishment of the group charter whereby each member would be given his or her role. Storming is another critical skill that is very important in the formation of the group. It includes establishing a process and the structure through which membership would be based.
The social worker would remain firm and straight to control the behavior of members. At this stage, conflicts would emerge because some members may give views that are not in line with the group’s interests. As a leader, I will be ready to handle the conflicts through the application of conflict resolution strategies, such as negotiation (Marsiglia, Pena, Nieri, & Nagoshi, 2010).
The third critical skill is adjourning whereby each member will be informed of the next meeting and what to expect before closing the meeting. The meeting will not be closed unless each member has contributed by giving his or her view.
The challenge that is expected is bringing together various members belonging to different classes, ethnicities, and races. This is a challenge because members from a certain ethnic group or social class would be unwilling to cooperate with other members perceived to be from an inferior group.
At this stage, the social worker will make all members understand that all human beings are equal, irrespective of their skin color, social status, and ethnic groupings. The group is expected to achieve its objectives in the shortest time possible. Time is of the essence in this group since students are in the risk of being put under academic probation.
Bergel, B., D & Clements, J. (2010). Supporting ourselves: Group work interventions for compassion fatigue. Group work, 20(2), 7-23.
Berger, R. (2009). Encounter of a racially mixed group with stressful situations. Group work, 19(3), 57-76.
Birnbaum, M.L., & Cicchetti, A. (2005). A model for working with the group life cycle in each group session across the life span of the group. Group work, 15(3), 23-43.
Cohen, C.S., Doel, M., Quirke, D., Ring, K.A., & Ruwaida, S. (2012). Global group work: Honoring processes and outcomes. Group work, 22(1), 78-98.
Marsiglia, F.F., Pena, V., Nieri, T., & Nagoshi, J.L. (2010). Real groups: The design and immediate effects of a prevention intervention for Latino children. Social Work with Group, 33(3), 103-121.
Oldfield, K. (2012). Still humble and hopeful: Two more recommendations on welcoming first-generation poor and working-class students to college. About Campus, 17(5), 2-13.
Swifach, J., & Heft-LaPorte, H. (2007). A model for group work practice with Ultra-Orthodox Jewish victims of domestic violence: A qualitative study. Social Work with Groups, 30(3), 29-45.
Weisman, C. (2000). Reminiscence: group work principles withstanding time-from the settlement house to the United Nations. Social Work with Groups, 23(3), 5-19.
Yalom, I. D., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books.