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Roles and Actions

Klaus Antons, the German researcher of group dynamics, outlines three groups of actions that exist in a group:

Task-related actions

  • Showing initiative and activity: making suggestions, expressing ideas, tackling an existing problem anew, restructuring material.
  • Looking for information: asking questions to specify suggestions, asking for additional information.
  • Learning others’ opinions: trying to find out other people’s feeling in regard to suggestions that have been made, etc.
  • Expressing one’s own opinion.
  • Providing information: introducing others to the facts, sharing in experiences.
  • Delving into the issue at hand: giving example, trying to imagine the consequences of specific suggestions.
  • Coordinating: organising relationships and ideas, combining the activities of various smaller groups.
  • Summarising.

Process-related actions

  • Encouraging: being friendly, considerate, ready to respond to others, praising others and their ideas, agreeing to what others have said.
  • Staying within boundaries: helping others express themselves (e.g. “We still haven’t heard John’s opinion”), limiting the length of one’s turns so that everyone has time to express themselves.
  • Agreeing to rules: setting rules for the group that regulate content, processes, and decision making.
  • Following along: complying with the group’s decisions, carefully listening to others and accepting their ideas, being an active listener in group discussions.
  • Expressing the emotions of the group: defining the emotions generated by the group, sharing observations about group members.
  • Analysing: checking whether the group’s decisions comply with the rules.
  • Diagnosing: defining sources of problems, determining next steps, analysing the main obstacles to further activity.
  • Analysing the stage of the group’s development: finding out the members’ opinions, evaluating whether the group is nearing a collective solution.
  • Being an intermediary: harmonising, smoothing out differing opinions, offering compromises.
  • Lessening tension: using humour to avert negative emotions, calming the situation by looking at the bigger picture.

Negative actions

  • Aggressive action: determining one’s status by criticising others or doing them in; hostile actions towards the group or individuals in the group; always trying to dominate.
  • Blocking: sabotaging the further development of the group by focusing on insignificant problems or talking about one’s own experiences that is not associated with the problem at hand; a prejudiced rejection of others’ ideas.
  • Fishing for sympathy: using the group as an audience for expressing one’s own feelings or opinions (that are not associated with the goals of the group); trying to get on the good side of group members by telling them about one’s problems and failures; explaining things in a very complicated way.
  • Dominating: arguing with others about the best ideas; talking non-stop; trying to be the most important person; taking over leadership.
  • Being a clown: playing the fool, telling jokes, imitating others; interrupting the group’s work.
  • Looking for attention: attracting the attention of others, for example, by talking loudly or at length; expressing extreme ideas; acting strangely.
  • Stepping back: acting in a passive or inappropriate way, for example, daydreaming, whispering, avoiding the topic.


It is more productive to focus on people’s actions rather than on roles. Each person can take on different actions that are required for the group to succeed, e.g. time keeping, writing down ideas, asking questions or reminding others about agreed rules, thus taking on co-responsibility for the outcome. Being able to observe these actions helps the teacher to analyse processes in the group and to determine what corrective actions need be taken. It is even better if the group becomes able to analyse its own actions and adapt to any shortcomings.

This work by Toms Urdze is licensed under
CC BY-SA 4.0