Module 3: Managing Group Dynamics in Training Programs

stock-photo-19332749-modern-classroomWe can use the metaphor of a three-legged stool when we are discussing what makes for a truly effective training program. In Modules 1 and 2, we have discussed the importance of preparing well – the first leg of the stool — and ensuring that your presentations are effective – the second leg of the stool. The third leg of the stool is that of understanding and managing group dynamics in a training program.





Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this Module, you will be able to:

1)    Describe what is meant by “group dynamics;”

2)    Identify effective guidelines for establishing a supportive learning environment

3)    Identify situations that typically arise during training programs, requiring effective management of the group dynamics; and

4)    Describe a number of strategies for managing such situations

What We Mean by Group Dynamics

We are using the term “group dynamics” to refer to the social, psychological and behavioral relationships that come into play within a group. These relationships influence and are influenced by group members’ actions with each other and the processes of the group as a whole as it moves through the stages of forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.

Which participants take on leadership roles in the group? … Which participants remain quiet and defer to others? … Who challenges the trainer’s statement? … Who refuses to participate? … Which participants argue with each other? … When does the entire group become resistant? … What norms have developed in terms of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors? … When is the atmosphere in the room full of tension? … These are all questions related to the concept of group dynamics.

For your purposes as a trainer, you are primarily interested in knowing two things about managing group dynamics:

1)    What are some guidelines that will help me establish and maintain a group environment in which participants can learn what I hope they will learn in this program? and

2)    How do I manage problematic situations that interfere with group learning if and when these arise?

“What If …”Now that we have outlined some of the proactive strategies you can use to help create an environment in which learning will take place during your training program, let’s consider some of the reactive strategies you might use when problematic situations arise.Journaling Activity

The chart below lists out a number of common situations that arise in diversity-related training sessions (as well as in other kinds of meetings). In the space provided to the right of each situation, jot down what you might actually say if this were happening in your training session – not a paragraph about what you would do; just a line or two of actual response.



Now that you have had the opportunity to think through what your responses might be, here are some of the responses we have used or observed others use … Which of your responses are similar? … Which are different?


corrected Chart Section 3 training and Consulting

General Guidelines about Managing Problematic Behaviors in Training Sessions 

1. Use good interpersonal communication skills.  Incorporate active listening, and open-ended questions.  Invite, as well as, offer constructive feedback.

2. In tense situations, remain calm.

3. Focus on the problem behavior, not the person.  This will make a difference in your attitude and how you react to a situation.

4. Do not analyze the person’s motivation or intention.  Instead, focus on the impact of the actual behavior.  Describe what you have observed. Then, test your assumptions.  For example,

5. Don’t ignore recurring problem behaviors, hoping that they will disappear. The group needs you to show that you can provide leadership in managing such problems. The individual needs you to intervene before the group “turns” on him or her.

6. Always show care and respect for the individual as a human being.

Module Summary

This Module has focused on managing group dynamics to establish and maintain an effective learning environment for your training program. Group dynamics was defined as the social, psychological and behavioral relationships that come into play within a group, influencing and being influenced by group members’ actions with each other and the processes of the group as a whole. Guidelines for creating a supportive learning environment were offered, and then, you were asked to think about the strategies you might use to respond to problematic situations that could interfere with learning during a training program. The Module closed with six general guidelines that are always applicable for managing problematic behaviors in training sessions.