Small Group Communication Research Proposal

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Small Group Communication

The issue of group interaction and dynamics is one that has many variables and depends on the particular situation and stresses and strains that the group experiences. The study of group behavior is also a subject that has become the focus of contemporary socio-psychological theory. The trajectory in modern theory is to find ways to improve and increase the interaction between group members and to improve successful group functioning.

This paper will explore the dynamics in a certain specific group of individuals who came together from different areas of the world and from different backgrounds to experience an African safari. This group was closely observed and assessed in terms of the relevant theoretical aspects relating to successful and unsuccessful group behavior patterns. The safari group was interesting in terms of group dynamics in that they had not met before and had differences in culture and outlook. As will be discussed, what brought this group together was firstly their relative isolation in a foreign country as well as a crisis that occurred during the safari. This context allowed one to observe some of the best and worst aspects of group behavior.

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The central thesis that will be explored in This paper deals with the question of whether the group can be considered to be effective or ineffective in terms of the various theoretical views on group dynamics, communication and problem solving. It was found that the group functioned relatively well in a relaxed atmosphere where there was no stress and tension and responded well in terms of functional criteria. However, the group was much less successful in terms of communication in a stressful situation. It should also be noted that only those theoretical aspects that best described the central characteristics of this particular group were discussed. The group situation and dynamics are based on an actual experience.

2. Describing the Group

Research Proposal on Small Group Communication Assignment

In general the group reacted and responded differently in different situations. There was little prior internal cohesion to the group. This is perhaps to be expected as the group comprised ten members from different regions and areas of the world who had come together for the purpose of going on safari in Africa. There were four American in the group, two Germans, one Russian and three South Africans, including the guide.

The diversity in culture was certainly a factor in the group dynamics but this was offset by the fact that there were no language barriers and all members of the group spoke English. In the process of observing and analyzing the group what became evident that there were many aspects to the group behavior that could be explained with reference to underlying themes and shared views of life and reality. This is an aspect that refers particularly to Symbolic Convergence Theory or SCT.

In a world that is more integrated in terms of technology and communications than ever before it is perhaps to be expected that members of the group understood many common themes of life that made them function well as a group in some instances. This was evident in the way that they reacted to a number of situations. When the group encountered a young Wildebeest calf that had been hurt in a poacher's trap, they tended to work together and respond as a unit. Communication was good and the group developed a plan to help with the transportation of the calf to the base camp. This aspect will be described in depth in the following sections.

However, the group was much less successful when a life-threatening crisis occurred. This took place when the group was observing a pride of lions feeding. A German member of the group decided to go closer to take photographs, even though this had been strictly prohibited by the tour guide. As a result one of the lions advanced on the man in a threatening fashion. The man panicked and ran which was the worst possible thing to do and the lion ran after him. The tour guide intervened and chased the lion away but was wounded by the lion who raked him with its claws.

The group was faced with a dire situation and needed to work together in order to help the tour guide. He was unconscious and the group was without an external leader. They started to bicker did not agree on the correct path to take. The tour guide was eventually rescued by the arrival of another guide. This situation clearly showed the fault lines in the group structure and is contrasted with the earlier event where the group acted in unison and agreement to help the Wildebeests calf.

3. Theoretical perspectives

The most important concept that was evident in understanding the interaction and dynamics of the group, especially in terms of a crisis situation where immediate decisions were needed, was the issue of communication. This was a central facet that was also a central weakness of this group.

The issue of communications is cardinal in understanding the problem of group interaction and in ascertaining the success or failures of the group. As Frey ( 1994) states, "Communication is the lifeblood that flows through the veins of the group" (Frey, 1994, p. x). In this sense communication is necessary for a number of functional aspects to take place within the group. These include the ability to make clear individual interests in arriving at the best possible solution through good communications (Walkdeck et al. 2007, p.4). Communication is also essential to recognize obstacles that may stand in the way of success, as well as being necessary for the orderly processing of any procedures and plans that are to be followed ( Walkdeck et al. 2007, p.4).

This also applies to the aspect of leadership. Hackman and Johnson define leadership as follows: "leadership is human ( symbolic) communication which modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others to meet the group goals and needs" (Galanes and Adams, p. 175). These and other aspect will be discussed in relation to the safari group. The way that the group related to the ensemble effect and to various functionalist view of successful group behavior will also be examined. It should be noted that this group was closely observed in terms of communication theory and their responses to different situations.

Communication is therefore seen from a theoretical perspective as an aspect which largely determines the group's success or failure. This is also related to other theoretical issues and views, which impact on the issue of leadership within the group. Theoretical views on leadership and decision making were also taken into account in the analysis of this particular group. Symbolic convergence theory was also found to apply to this group's behavior ( Waldeck et al. 2002, p.3).

The group of people on safari was not successful as a group in terms of functional theory in the crisis situation and the negative aspects of a dysfunctional group tended to emerge. On the other hand one has to take into account the fact that the group was randomly constituted with the only linking factor being that they wanted to see animals in Africa. They also came from different backgrounds and cultures. However, what was somewhat surprising in a theoretical sense is that they were relatively successful as a group in problem solving and communication when there was no life-threatening crisis.

This apparent dichotomy will be discussed in more detail below.

4. Discussion and analysis

4.1. The Crisis situation

Functional theory in terms of small group dynamics was very useful in an initial analysis of the effectiveness of his group. This theory states that the performance of the group is essentially dependent on the quality of the communications between the members of that group (Waldeck et al. 2002, p.3). In other words, aspects such as group decision making, planning and leadership are dependent on the ability to communicate and to assess and evaluate issues and ideas in the group.

In term of this theory there are a number of critical requirements that are necessary for the group to be successful. According to Galanes and Adams ( include Date of book publication) these include the following aspects: the members of the group must understand the problem or issue; they should be aware of the minimum requirements for a successful solution; thirdly they should be able to identify alternatives and make consensual choice based in this knowledge; fourthly these alternatives must be evaluated by the group in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and the best solution that meets the groups criteria should be adopted (Galanes and Adams, p.134). However, as will become evident for the analysis, these positive functional ideals of the group cannot be successful if the basic element of communication is lacking.

Therefore, in terms of functional theory an essential factor that let this group down was divisive and poor communications. The group in general was not able to establish a cohesive and agreed upon plan in a crisis. As Waldeck et al. ( 2002)… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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