Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 3 - 17

Group Process as a Tool

Many RAs are expected to work with residents
in groups-floor communities, hall government,
program planning-so an understanding of their
performance in a group can inform hiring decisions.
therefore equally crucial (Wu & Stemler,
2008). While each campus maintains its
own review and selection process, common
elements are evident across institutions.
Some form of group engagement or interaction is a common feature. While group
engagement in the RA applicant review and
selection process takes many forms and varies between campuses, differentiating between three of the more typical approaches
helps set the foundation for our examination. These methods are not unique to RA
hiring and are present in various settings
(Ansbacher, 1951; Bass, 1949; Tran & Blackman, 2006). Leaderless group discussions
(LGD) have been used in various industries'
hiring practices for different roles, including
the military, high-level leaders, managers,
supervisors, and civil servants (Ansbacher, 1951; Bass, 1949). LGDs involve several
candidates discussing an assigned topic of
interest while being evaluated by observers
(Bass, 1949). Group Interviews, in comparison, have been used to select applicants for
admission to academic programs. In this
approach, a small group of applicants is
posed standard questions by one or more interviewers (Tran & Blackman, 2006). What
appears to be most commonly used in the
selection of paraprofessional housing staff,
group process involves a small group of candidates who participate in one or more activities while being evaluated by observers.
	
There are various approaches to structuring a group process. At some universities, candidates engage in one activity. Anecdotally, the most common approach is
a " carousel " wherein many groups of can-

14

The Journal of College and University Student Housing

didates engage in several group activities
while being observed. In some processes,
the groups move from one station to another with different observers; in others, groups
and observers stay together across activities.
Observers may be current residence life
staff at various levels (e.g., resident advisor,
hall director) or may extend to include student affairs staff from other departments.
Some institutions include current students
as observers. Generally, the tasks set for the
group are leaderless, meaning the group is
given instructions and then works on the
task without further direction. Post-activity
debriefing may be facilitated by the leader
of the observers (Hamilton & Oliver, 2020).
	
From our professional experience, group
activities focus on problem-solving and communication. For example, an activity might
involve assembling construction paper triangles of various sizes into squares while
members cannot speak. Group members
might be asked to review profiles of potential
RA candidates, decide individually whom to
hire, and then strive to reach consensus on
hiring decisions. Often, as is the case with
this task, conflict is an intentional element of
the activity, potentially offering insight into
how candidates deal with difficult situations.
Some activities might cause candidates to
decide on a theme for residence hall programming or to design an educational program for residents. Thus, some activities are
divorced from the RA position description,
while others might be directly related to it.
Apart from the task or activity itself, it seems
clear the act of problem-solving along with
the associated features of communication,



Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 3

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