April 2008

The first meeting of the Informed Consent/Study Team was a brainstorming session about what to select as the focus for a formal study of the group dynamics that have occurred among class members (students, teacher, and visitors) over the course of this semester. Steph has already been collecting data (via the peer evaluation rating forms) to test an hypothesis about the stages of group development, but that information is insufficient by itself.

We agreed that it is time (now) to pose a study question. If we could wind back the clock, what would be interesting to have paid close attention to from the beginning?

Ideas (in no order, roughly in the sequence in which they came up):

  • Having no instructions compared with lots of instructions and how this ties to leadership, for instance, the progress of the group on a given day. (Example: “today given a task and a standard, which increased the rate of success on this day in comparison with other days.”)
  • The whole underlying thing of the group dynamic – come to work with Steph – who’s writing on the board…
  • Use of Johari Window, Peer Evaluations
  • The variation of feedback over time…
  • A group of strangers working together…how we view each other over time – perhaps shown in the quality of what people write (as feedback) over time…what they write…how they view their peers.
  • Strangers: only a few knew each other prior to this class, now friends and know many
  • How do you get together 30 kids….the wiki is an arbitrary task..
  • The success rate of fishbowls: “I really like them!” said one team member. They have
  • Flexible content (how this goes down)
  • Want to accomplish
  • A lot of control
  • positive
  • Just arguing with each other – no one wanted to
  • Avoid hurting people’s feelings “weak” = negative
  • Getting into it…..what do…..problem of agreeing – then uphill since
  • Most people hate group work
  • We do the group work in class
  • Homework done at home, no dependence
  • There are choices, people feel bad about not pulling their own weight
  • Are the peer evals biased? Towards the beginning – who chosen to rate? Now friends with them….

Benne and Sheats argue that member roles receive very little attention in groups because most of the limelight goes to so-called leaders. Please

  1. characterize the function/purpose of the true/false section of the Functional Group Roles exam and
  2. summarize what you’ve learned from the experiential methodology of our class/group to date.

Be sure to include a link to your detailed “If statement” expansions on the True/False questions that you’ve written in your own Weblog!

The comments that follow will link to reports from the wiki-teams on what they accomplished over the previous two weeks.

Each wiki-team is expected to orient themselves strategically concerning the final outcomes they desire from their participation in this course on decision-making groups.  Several things are necessary: a vision, a sequence of activities to accomplish the vision, and the delegation of tasks in order to complete each necessary activity in a timely enough manner to arrive at the longed-for destination with the goods each one seeks.

In the comments that follow, a representative of each wiki-team will post a brief description and link to a more detailed description of the long term goal and crucial next steps.

What remains….from the beginning until now?  Students seem attached to “confusion,” even though most of them say the results are positive: increased comfort and familiarity with each other than occurs in other classes.  Most students provide descriptions of their experience with ambiguity: while one expresses fatigue, others mention optimism, excitement, even “wonderment.”  A few explain incremental increases in clarity, based in the recognition of “a set task” and an acceptance that the conditions are such that we have “had to think in ways many of us may have never been made to think before.” Some students articulate learnings (!) from the curriculum (!!), about the topic of group dynamics (!!!):

I am beginning to appreciate more the process we go through in order to make decisions…At first I did not like how we did not reach conclusions easily. Now I am taking a step back and really enjoying the process it takes us to reach a consensus. sunshine775

Decision-making is the key, core, crucial element of group dynamics.  All of the course material centers around this activity.  Specifically, we keep returning to

…learning how to organize our ideas and opinions. I think that this is greatly emphasized in every class. We are put into confusing situations sometimes, and instead of just thinking about how confusing it is, or what the solution is. We think about the process in coming to a conclusion, and how to organize and write about this process. We dont just try to find an answer, we also analyze how to find an answer, while organizing these ideas into something coherent… freshkicks6

As ontherecliner says, confusion per se is not “a bad thing because I think it means we are doing new things and moving on. As the group moves along I think there will always be confusion, but how that is dealt with is what really matters” (emphasis added).  In fact, the teacher’s pedagogy assumes responsibility of students for the learning process.  Summer22 provides an excellent example:

Since the beginning our group has been prompted to think outside the box and to question normative standards. As a group I feel like we have progressed on many levels, learning to understand individual frames, learning that it’s ok to question things and be confused, and that not all teacher/student relationships need to be on the formal level in which our culture generally expects.

At this point in the semester (week 12 of 15), with the major project material due (now), the major concern from the teacher’s point-of-view is the insecurity posed by a few students concerning “how to do well” and whether or not things are being done “correctly,” or if “the work we did for homework was right.”

moses84 is on to something – despite the surprise of being tested (!?!) – “our feelings about the class are the same as they were at the beginning of class, yet the way we frame it is completely different” (emphasis added).  I hope so!  And I would like to see this different framing reflected in the following comments concerning “questions and concerns” that arise during each wikiteam’s five-minute evaluation meeting. In other words, what is the most functional role you can play, at this moment in the life of our group, based on the issues in your sub-group (intra-group) in relation to the other sub-groups (inter-group) and within our group-as-a-whole?

How good are you at discerning fake from genuine smiles?  Or is the trick to pick out the genuine ones?


Includes tips (at the end) on how to distinguish between the two.  Builds on Paul Ekman’s FACS.

Recall the enthusiasm with which the various team’s presented your own and received each other’s wiki-plans.  Energy was high!  Keep it going!

Making the site is not the end, indeed, at the most important level it is only the beginning. We need time to evaluate what we produce or the production itself will have gotten us only halfway toward the goal.

What – from our beginnings as a group – remains?

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