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Small Group Analysis: Motiv8ed Kellen J. Sanger Vanderbilt University

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS Introduction The goal of this paper is to effectively analyze group Motiv8eds structure and development by applying Kolbs four stage cycle of experiential learning to their group process. A detailed examination of the group that follows Kolbs cycles of Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation will give

insight on the dynamics that shape the group. The Concrete Experience will describe a portion of the groups interactions and lay a fundamental foundation in which examples will be drawn from throughout the paper. The Reflective Observation will subjectively review the occurrences described in the Concrete Experience and will propose insight as to why some interactions took place. Next, the Abstract Conceptualization will support explanations of the group process with theory and concept. Finally, The Active Experimentation section will provide suggested actions upon which the group can act to improve their group structure and process. Through the application of the four cycles, the paper will reveal understanding about the groups dynamics and the group as a whole. Concrete Experience

Annie Pia


Margaux Macy Lynn Christopher

Figure 1


Group Motiv8ed was seated as shown in Figure 1. Annie, David, Christopher, Macy, and Margaux sat with laptops in front of them on the table while Kellen, Annie, and Lynn had pens and notebooks. Macy looked at her phone and opened her laptop as she said, O.K. lets start. Margaux looked at her laptop screen and said, I have a question about who is going to actually present each part because Margaux stopped speaking as Macy said, I think we should pull up the agenda that I sent out before the meeting and follow that. Christopher continued to look at his laptop, not glancing up, and Kellen looked at Margaux and smiled. David said, Alright well the first thing on here is to report what you did for your part. Macy turned her head in the direction of Margaux and asked, Margaux, do you want to go first. Margaux pressed keys on her keyboard and said, Sure give me one second. Lynn wrote in her notebook and Pia, David, and Christopher looked at their laptop screens as Margaux spoke. Kellen looked at his phone which sat on the table in front of him. Macy looked from Kellen to Margaux. Margaux said, I am doing the norms section and think its best to discuss prescriptive and proscriptive because those are the two that fit the best with the norms that I found. Macy said Mhmm and Lynn moved her head up and down. Margaux continued and said, First Im going to talk about how the group doesnt have an orientation phaseand then probably connect that to the other norm which is how they react on gut feelings. Lynn looked at Margaux and said, Oh, that sounds really good. Macy looked at Margaux and moved her mouth into a frown as she said, Well I think, werent we gonna try and not have each person like strictly comment on one thing, so like I could jump in and explain how learning styles effects this. Margaux looked down and said, O.K. Macy moved her eyes from Margaux to Christopher to Annie and said, Didnt we decide last time we needed to integrate into each others slides? Annie coughed and said, Yeah. Christopher continued to look down

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS at his laptop screen and Kellen moved his head up and down as he looked at his phone on the table in front of him. Annie said, Yeah pretty much just be aware of what everyones saying. Margaux turned her laptop slightly away from her and sat up in her chair. She said, I have a question: do you think we should be talking back and forth or would that sound bad? Thats what I was going to ask before about who is presenting what exactly. Kellen looked at

Macy and said, Yeah, Im a little confused too. Is this what we are presenting on? Like the parts that we researched? Did we ever decide on that? Christopher, Pia, and Margaux looked up from their laptop screens and looked at Macy. David touched his chin and looked at Kellen. No one spoke for five seconds. Annie looked up at the ceiling, sighed, and then said, Umm I dont think that was our intention, Im fine if its not the way it plays out. Lynn said, I think what we should do is, everyone says their own thing, but we should connect the slides more and add in more transitions. Christopher looked back down at his laptop screen and Pia searched through papers in her book bag. Pia then said, We also have a lot more sections to divvy up like the introduction and suggestions. Macy said, Well figure that out later, Margaux are you done with the norms? Margaux continued talking about norms as Lynn wrote on her notebook, David typed, and Kellen looked at his phone. Margaux said, Another thing is that Im going to add Julia into my discussion of a normed, like leader based on context in class. Kellen looked at the ceiling and said, I think thats good because we definitely need to address her because shes part of the group. Lynn looked at Kellen and said, Yeah I agree. Margaux smiled and said, Thanks, so moving on to Greg Macy, looking at her laptop screen, said, Wait, sorry for interrupting, are we allowed to use information outside of the observation? Christopher breathed heavily and looked at his laptop screen. Pia looked at the ground and Lynn and Kellen looked at each other.

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS Margaux sat up in her chair and looked at Macy as she said, Well we have the questionnaire. Lynn said, Yeah so its fine.

Annie looked up from her notebook, smiled, and said, Oh yeah! So I was talking to Julia outside of class the other day, and she was telling me how she thought her group was like already to like the stage where theyre all best friends, and how they have like passed storming. I dont know I just thought that was interesting because they all think theyre like buddy buddy best friends and they actually like are almost in storming. Kellen looked at Annie and laughed. He said, Oh, buddy buddy best friends or buddy buddy buddy best friends? Annie stuck her tongue out and looked in the direction of Kellen. Kellen laughed and rolled his eyes. Macy did not smile and said, So are we allowed to use information like that, stuff that we got outside of class? Should we ask if we can? Christopher looked up from his laptop screen and said, Yes, I definitely think we can and should use information like that. They said they want additional stuff and for us to ask them. Macy looked at Christopher and touched her hair with her hand and said, Oh, O.K. Pia said, Yeah O.K. that was like the point of the questionnaire, right? Christopher leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms as he said, Yeah. David looked from Christopher to Kellen and said, I also think it is important to be delicate with how we say things, like we should probably run that past Julia first. Annie moved her head up and down and said, Yeah I completely agree, we dont want to tell this group who thinks theyre best friends that they suck. Christopher, Macy, and Kellen laughed. Lynn wrote on her notebook. Annie said, Oh so another thing thats really funny is that I heard that the Commodore Crew has a group text, and that Greg like removed himself from the group because they talk too


much over it. Kellen, Lynn, Christopher, Macy, and Pia laughed. Kellen said, Thats hilarious. And it is also a possible example of them moving into the storming phase! Christopher moved his head up and down and Lynn said, Yeah. David pushed his laptop away from him at the table. He touched his hair and said, The vibe that I got from Greg is that hes like the distant father that you still need approval from, like the Dad that reads his paper and smokes his pipe and then when theres like a conflict they go to him. Margaux smiled and said, I agree! Annie and Kellen laughed. Christopher leaned forward in his seat and said, Yeah, yeah. Christopher continued, Gregs not like super loud or anything, but I feel like he has a lot of authority, or power. Pia started to press keys on her keyboard and said, Ooo, I can use that for my part! Macy looked at her phone and Margaux looked at Macy. Margaux said, So does anyone have anything else to add for norms? Macy said, No, I think those are good ones to start with. Margaux looked at Lynn and said, Yeah, I mean Ill go through it again, these are just mostly like implicit norms. Pia and David pressed keys on their keyboard. Macy sniffled and Christopher said, O.K. moving on Macy asked, Is it me next? followed by a six second pause. She looked down at her laptop and said, Sorry guys, I am not feeling well today. Annie said, Its O.K. dont worry. Macy moved papers around in her book bag and looked from her laptop screen to Margaux and then back to her laptop screen. Macy said, Does anyone have anything pertinent to say while Im opening this? Christopher leaned forward and looked at Macy and said, Ummmm Kellen leaned forward as well and said, The key processes, it says to choose three of the four, are we going to not do one of those? David looked at Kellen and moved his head up and down. David said, Yeah, I guess we can just jump to me, I did cohesion and I just think theres really not a whole lot to say. I think we should cut this one. Kellen touched his hand to his face and said, O.K. cool. Annie looked at David and said,

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS Yeah, good idea. Macy sniffled and said, O.K. Im going to go really quick through mine I think Ive got it. Margaux leaned back in her chair and Kellen looked down at his phone. Pia and David pressed keys on their keyboards and Christopher looked his laptop screen. Reflective Observation

In order to contextualize the discussion, this meeting was held two days after the deadline for an active experimentation paper on ideas of how to improve group communication that all students had to write. An hour before the meeting, Macy emailed a Meeting Agenda to the group without any previous decisions being made on which ideas were to be implemented. Kellen, David, Christopher, and especially Margaux indicated by their participation in the meeting that they were slightly aggravated by Macy changing how the group held meetings without everyones consent. Perhaps this step was made by Macy because she perceived past meetings as jumbled, unproductive, or unorganized. Regardless, most group members felt visibly confused or threatened by this change of structure as the group usually viewed their process as efficient. Macys desire for organization immediately disrupted open group discussion when Margaux asked a question about who was presenting each part and Macy interrupted her and stressed that the group should follow her agenda. The dismissal of the question of who was to present each part seemed like a productive step in favor of staying on track at the time, but putting off this issue created confusion amongst the group members throughout the meeting. When Macy interjected into Margaux presenting her researched information to ask about integrating parts, Margauxs earlier question of who was presenting each part reappeared. Other group members such as Kellen, Christopher, and Pia may not have been confused on this issue

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS too if it was resolved the first time Margaux brought it up. The lack of clarity around which person in the group was to present each part was a possible cause for some of the group members disinterest in discussion early in the meeting. The unresolved issue, after being

brought up a second time, warranted an awkward silence and an initial solution of figuring it out later. The main issue with resolving the problem of who was responsible for presenting specific parts was most likely due to previous feedback the group received that included not integrating individual sections of their presentation. Not only did the discomfort of addressing past feedback create ambiguity throughout this meeting, but it also brought out some possible conflict between Margaux and Macy. Macy, a self-pronounced and group-pronounced leader of the group, and Margaux, who had past experience with leadership through the Accelerator business program, both seemed somewhat irritable towards each other throughout the meeting. This was possibly due to Margaux wanting to run the meeting or to Margaux being frustrated with criticism from Macy. Either way, the group was used to Macy controlling tasks, but the meeting may have run better if Macy would have let someone else direct it, because she was sick. The issue of who was to present each part was avoidable if addressed earlier. Eventually, Lynn proposed the idea of integrating every ones parts by connecting the slides more and adding in better transitions while present the topic each member had researched. Everyone in the group happily accepted this resolution as Lynn was commonly relied on to provide the final decision. While Lynn did not speak that frequently during the meeting, her idea clearly represented the group well. Lynns seemed to always be listening intently to the group discussion and it showed in coming up with an idea that incorporated opinions and answered every ones concerns. Lynn may have a strong ability to unite others due to her moving around a

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS lot as child and having experience dealing with people who have different backgrounds and different opinions. Kellen and Lynn both devoted most of their participation to encouraging and reinforcing other group members proposed ideas such as integrating slides, using outside information, and

laughing at others funny statements. This aligns with how Kellen acts with his family as he told the group in a previous meeting that he always is the one keeping everyone happy. Also, when discussing conflict in class earlier in the semester, Kellen told a story of how he diffused conflict amongst group members in a recent project for another class. Due to sharing a desire to maintain a positive group attitude, Kellen and Lynn frequently supported each others ideas and agreed with what each other had to say. This also could be because they both usually talk less than the other members of the group in meetings. Throughout the meeting, some members did not participate as much in conversation as they usually do. For the first six minutes of the meeting, Christopher was constantly looking down at his laptop and uncharacteristically seemed distracted and zoned out. However, when he did speak and answer questions such as whether or not to use outside information, other group members such as Macy, Pia, and David were quick to agree without any argument. This corresponds with Christophers reputable status as a group member. A possible explanation as to why he was not speaking early in the meeting could have been due to the lack of clarity in who was presenting each part. After realizing that his researched subject would be the part he was going to present, he became more intent on staring at his laptop and less intent on participating in conversation. The topic he was assigned to research by the group was difficult and there is a chance he was not well prepared for talking about his part for the meeting. Concerned about his reputation and the groups perception of him, Christopher may have been working on his part

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS while the Margaux and Macy were talking, and as he finished, he began to talk more. By the


halfway point in the meeting, Christopher was expressing his opinion on every topic even when he did not have that much new information to add. Another member that may have been perceived as not paying a lot of attention was Kellen. Macy appeared to be staring frustratingly a Kellen during some points of the meeting when her or other members were discussing information and Kellen was looking at his phone. Kellen had told some group members in an earlier meeting that he preferred to not use laptops and instead did everything from take notes to look over PowerPoint presentations from his phone. This may have attributed to Macy not taking his answer to the question of using outside information as seriously as Margauxs answer even though they were the same. Macy possibly thought that Kellen was not paying attention to the entire conversation as her organized and intense attitude would quickly discredit Kellens opinion if she believed him to not be paying attention. Starting with the discussion of using outside information, the group went off on a series of tangents revolving around humor that immediately seemed to some members as unproductive. However, while Annie and David told stories and brought up facts relating to the other group outside of class, the conversation was beneficial to the group. Kellen used humor when addressing Annies statement, an indication of group as well as possible personal closeness. David also used humor to get his ideas across when he compared Greg to a distant father. Other group members quickly agreed and while it may have seemed joking around was counterproductive, the entire group was forming shared conclusions on the role, power, and authority of Greg in the other group. While Macy repetitively attempted to get the group back on

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS track, she also recognized the value of informal brainstorming and laughed and participated in the discussion as well.


The latter minutes of the meeting revealed important detail about the nature of the group. After tirelessly trying to implement discussed changes to organize and structure the meeting, all of the group members came to unintentional realization that the group worked the best while having fun and discussing ideas freely. While the first eight minutes of the meeting were tense and filled with conflict and disagreements, the later portions of the meeting included members adding to other members parts and progressing through tasks more quickly. It seemed as though the group as a whole were affected by the discovery of what process they found to be more enjoyable and productive. Nonetheless, the attempted implementation of the agenda brought out some potential problems between group members that may have an effect on the group in the future. Abstract Conceptualization The Abstract Conceptualization section will analyze observations made in the Concrete Experience and Reflective Observation portions. This section will explain the observations of actions and statements in terms of group norms, interpersonal relations, power dynamics, personal roles, interpersonal conflict, and group conflict and will ultimately relate these connections to the stage of group development the group is in: storming. From the beginning of the meeting, Macy attacks the pre-established group norm of informally moving from topic to topic as needed. Macys attempt to create a meeting agenda represents her desire to institute a new prescriptive norm for the group by outlining positive behaviors that would foreseeably provide direction and motivation, organize social interactions,



and make other peoples responses predictable and meaningful (Forsyth, 2010, p. 145). Because norms frequently are implicit and gradually emerge over time, Macys attempt to establish a new, formal norm was for the most part rejected by the group due to the group having spent a significant amount of time together and already forming other norms for meeting schedule (Forsyth, 2010, p. 146). Nonetheless, the measure proved to be successful in revealing important issues and characteristics of the group. According to Wheelan (2005), conflict provides a medium for clarification and trial of group norms such as Macys attempted implementation of utilizing a meeting agenda (p. 65). While intragroup conflict was apparent in response to the agenda as it dismissed issues the group wanted to address, the group as a whole approached this conflict with an accommodating conflict management style (McGuire Lecture, 2012). The groups initial willingness to cooperate with the proposed suggestion and the groups unassertiveness through covertly expressing dissatisfaction with the idea follows the accommodating style (McGuire Lecture, 2012). The agenda was initially given a chance, but the overwhelming desires of the group to return to previous norm of open discussion prevailed. However, the agenda not only promoted intragroup task conflict, but also revealed personal conflict between Macy and Margaux. Forsyth (2010) explains this by stating in regards to task conflict, these disagreements can spill over into more personal conflicts (p. 391). The conflict between Macy and Margaux not only dealt with the task conflict of using an agenda or not, but also with the personal conflict of a power struggle between these two members. Macy exhibited immense referent power as the declared, respected, and accepted leader of the group while Margaux held strong expert power in her past participation with business leadership programs that became specifically relevant when the group was faced with organizing

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS presentations such as in the given situation (Forsyth, 2010, p. 226). In opposition to the


resolution of the intragroup task conflict, the interpersonal conflict between Macy and Margaux was approached with an avoidant conflict management style. Both parties put aside the issue to be solved in the future thus exhibiting unassertiveness of personal opinions and uncooperativeness in not attempting to work together to gain a better end result (McGuire Lecture, 2012). This is potentially a serious problem for future group interactions as Macy and Margaux may openly compete for status. Lynn and Kellen emerged as group members that consistently provided thoughtful solutions, encouraging remarks, and stress-alleviating humor in order to ease conflict in situations such as the ones that occurred. According to Forsyth (2010), Lynn and Kellen took on the relationship roles of encouragers, harmonizers, and expediters (p. 151). Furthermore, they formed a type of coalition, not necessarily against any specific member or group of members, but against the group as a whole. The formation of this coalition can be explained by a shared understanding, feeling, or mutual need between Lynn and Kellen as they both recognized and understood the need of providing conflict management in the group (Wheelan, 2005, p. 72). In addition, this coalition aligned with their communication style needs as both talk less than others in the group and were designated as low talkers amongst their members (Wheelan, 2005, p. 72). Kellen and Lynns coalition not only provided them with a means to be heard within the group by sharing and supporting each others ideas, but also provided the group with support in addressing group conflict. David also effectively facilitated group communication by utilizing humor not as much to alleviate conflict but to promote brainstorming. By using humor to contextualizing important information regarding the groups presentation, David effectively acted as an energizer as well as

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS a gatekeeper (Forsyth, 2010, p. 151). He acted in a relationship role by smoothing communication with jokes and fulfilled the task role of stimulating discussion in order to help


the group add to the presentations content (Forsyth, 2010, p. 150). These qualities are important in a group in order to satisfy personal as well as production based needs. Christophers uncharacteristic communication style of being disengaged and quiet during the first half of the meeting can be attributed to a threat to his power in the group. The quickness and enthusiasm in which the group accepted solutions proposed by Christopher during the meeting can be explained by his significant referent power as a highly respected group member as a result of previous performance (McGuire Lecture, 2012). During the meeting, Christopher did not have his part of the work done for class and was fearful about losing respect amongst group members. Some group members noticed him franticly working instead of participating in discussion. The fundamental attribution error must be considered in the judgment of Christophers unpreparedness as any number of situational factors may have been the cause of this instead of his personality or work ethic (Forsyth, 2010, p. 235). Not taking the fundamental attribution error into account may have serious consequences as Christophers power in the group was at risk. Other examples of possible judgments made without considering fundamental attribution error concern the behaviors of Macy and Kellen during the meeting. The couple of times that Macy interrupted Margaux may not have been due to disrespect for her ideas, but instead because she was sick and not thoughtful in the timing of her communication. Another example was Kellen constantly looking at his phone during the meeting. While some members such as Macy perceived this as him not paying attention, the true reason behind it was because all of his notes were on the phone. Any judgments made on Macy, Kellen, and Christopher that blamed



their personalities for their behavior instead of the situation may be discharged after eliminating fundamental attribution error. Overall, the group demonstrates qualities correspondent to the Storming stage of group development. This stage, marked by unavoidable conflict, is the key ingredient in solidifying an effective group structure when moving forward in development and task accomplishment (Forsyth, 2010, p. 131). Macys initial trial of norms created conflict characteristic of this stage as the group members began to question the leaders actions through lack of participation and lack of collaboration (Wheelan, 2005, p. 62-63). Interpersonal conflict, a quality crucial to this stage of development, emerged between Macy and Margaux over power in the group (Mcguire, 2012; Forsyth, 2010). Subgroups formed as well; an essential part of group development and sign of increasing organization and maturation in the Storming phase (Wheelan, 2005, p. 72-73). These subgroups existed in order for members such as Kellen and Lynn to participate efficiently in the group and dissolve conflict. Another measure in response to conflict was the advent of group member roles specific to maintaining group cohesion (Forsyth, 2010, p. 131). Through the groups widespread efforts of managing and resolving conflict quickly, group consensus, cohesion, and success can be obtained in the future. Active Experimentation This section will propose a series of recommendations for the group based on the analysis to be enacted on group and individual levels. Each suggestion will be connected to analysis and provide insight on methods of improving the group process and dynamics. The first recommendation for the members of the group is to address interpersonal conflict by preforming a monthly goal assessment. This assessment will be performed by all



members of the group coming prepared to a meeting with a list defining their weekly, monthly, and ultimate goals as a group. This list will include all productive and counterproductive group processes that help or inhibit the accomplishment of each goal. In doing so, group members will be forced to remove themselves from the context of the current issues and focus on more long term objectives. Also, reemphasizing the purpose of the group will not only increase group unity in sharing a common goal, but it will also reveal how unproductive qualities such as interpersonal conflict over power, leadership, or meeting schedule are unnecessary and are only holding the group back. In reference to naming unproductive actions, this recommendation is meant to be less critical of others and more introspective on personal group members contribution to problems. By focusing on goals, members will realign themselves with their group and individual objectives and understand the value of overcoming conflict. A second recommendation on the group-level is to explicitly define the norms of the group in an open group discussion. In the immediate future, the group should hold a meeting thats purpose is to create a list of past group norms that have worked well. The only rule for the meeting will be to only discuss methods or qualities that each member likes about the group. By doing this, the group will develop a comprehensive and positive list of practices that can be applied as norms during meetings. By limiting the discussion to enjoyable aspects of the group, members will generate more ideas, improve the groups opinion of themselves, and focus on effective qualities. Macy, the self-proclaimed scribe of the group will write all suggested norms down and print a copy that will be present and visible at every group meeting in the future. By following this recommendation, the group will avoid conflict revolving the need or desire for new norms and reduce any individual movement away from productive norms that may cause future conflict.

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS A final group suggestion is to organize a fun and entertaining out-of-school activity in


order to get to know members in a nonacademic and stress-free setting. As long as all members can attend and agree to the activity, the plans can be anywhere from getting dinner to going bowling. This should be done as soon as all members have time in their schedule. The purpose of this activity is remove members of the group from their academic, task related roles. Introducing the group to a different, more relaxed environment would help group members see other group members apart from their roles associated with accomplishing schoolwork. Instead, members will have the opportunity to get know each others social personalities and develop a deeper care for each others wellbeing in hopes of improving interpersonal relationships and knowing how to work more effectively as a team. As the group continues, an individual recommendation for Kellen is to communicate more effectively with other group members by clearly organizing notes for meetings and by introducing more ideas. Organizing notes for meetings will be done by printing out hard copies of all work done prior to the meeting so that instead of looking down at a phone, Kellen will be able to visualize work and engage in discussion more efficiently. At the top of his notes, Kellen will write at least three new ideas regarding the material to be discussed in the meeting. This will in turn propel the second implementation of introducing more ideas during discussion. Not only will this suggestion remove some negative assumptions about Kellen not paying attention during meetings, it will also help Kellen expand his role of harmonizer to task related roles such as initiator or opinion giver.

SMALL GROUP ANALYSIS References Forsyth, D. R. (2010). Group dynamics (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co McGuire, A. (2012, Fall). HOD 1100 Class Lectures. HOD1100. Lecture conducted from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. Wheelan, S. A. (2005). Group processes: a developmental perspective. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


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