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Queens University COMM 617: Group and Team Dynamics Spring 2011

Contact Information: Janet McPherson, Ph.D. E-mail: Phone: (336) 970-7371 (cell) Office Hours: By Appointment Course Meetings: Thursday, 6:00pm-8:45pm McEwen, Room 215 Course Description: At one time or another, all of us have participated in some kind of a group or team. Throughout our personal and professional lives, we have functioned in small groups of various types. Families, social groups, religious organizations, educational institutions, athletic teams, and contemporary corporations of all sizes rely on small groups and teams to organize their resources and achieve their goals. While the concept of a group or team is familiar to all of us, rarely do we look closely at the dynamics that make such teams function well or struggle to succeed. Few managers or employees really understand how to develop and lead a healthy and productive group, which explains why so many of us dread the experience and find team work to be such an inefficient way of accomplishing a task. This course is designed to increase your understanding of the theory and practice of group dynamics. The more you understand about groups and the better you are at recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of groups, the more effective group member and leader you will be. Specifically, we will look at group development, norms, leadership, diversity, verbal and nonverbal communication, conflict management, decision making and problem solving. Course Goals: To understand how we define small groups and teams and the characteristics that make them both beneficial and challenging to todays complex organizational landscape To apply group dynamics theory in organizing and facilitating healthy groups and teams.

To evaluate existing groups and teams in terms of effectiveness and overall contribution to the organization

Required Materials: Harris, T. E. & Sherblom, J.C. (2011). Small Group and Team Communication (5th ed.). Pearson. Supplemental Readings as assigned. Available in class or online. Assignments and Grading: Keeping in mind that most participants in this course are full-time, working adults, I have designed the course to be as straightforward as possible. Assignments: All assignments are due at 6:00pm on the date provided in the syllabus. Assignments submitted after that date and time will be accepted at the discretion of the professor and, if accepted, will be penalized by a minimum of one letter grade for each class meeting the assignment is late. Assignments must be typed and should be double-spaced in 12-point font (Times New Roman, Calibri, or similar) with one-inch margins. All assignments must adhere to APA Guidelines and include appropriate citations. APA reference manuals can be found in most bookstores and several useful writing guides can also be located online. As this is a graduate level course, I expect all work submitted to be wellwritten. That includes writing that is clear, succinct, and free of grammatical errors. If you feel like you need additional help with writing, please contact the Queens University Center for Academic Success Writing Center located on the lower level of Dana. Please contact Jenn Goddu at or 704.688.2765 if you have additional questions. Please note that I will not necessarily correct all assignments for grammatical errors. I will, however, make comments regarding the content of the paper. If a paper includes numerous grammatical errors or is difficult to read, your grade will reflect the need for improvement in this area.

Grading: The following grading scale will be used to evaluate all course assignments. A numerical grade will be given for each assignment and all grades will be totaled at the end of the semester to determine the final course grade. A 100-90 Outstanding work. Paper includes a strong, well-supported argument, is clear and concise, free of grammatical errors, and appropriately cited. Demonstrates a working understanding of the theory presented in class and in the reading materials. Good work. Includes most of the elements listed above, but could improve in one of these areas: ideas, argument, grammar, or documentation. Acceptable work. Includes some of the elements listed above, but could improve in two of these areas: ideas, argument, grammar, or documentation.

B 89-80

C 79-70

F 69 and below Unacceptable work. Does not demonstrate an understanding of the course content and/or reflects a lack of commitment to the assignment. Confidentiality: At times, you will be asked to reflect upon your personal experience and write about actual people and organizations. While confidentiality on all papers and projects will be highly respected, students are encouraged to change the names of individuals and organizations in their coursework. If you have additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. Class Attendance: While I recognize the numerous personal and professional demands placed on working graduate students, class attendance is critical to your success in this course. Much of your learning will come from our class discussions and activities, and you will also be working with your classmates in groups and teams on a regular basis. Therefore, your attendance not only affects your learning, but that of your classmates as well. You may miss 1 class meeting over the course of the semester with no penalty. However, for each additional absence you will receive a 5-point reduction from your final participation grade. Over the course of the semester, any student who misses more that 3 classes will receive a failing grade for the course. Most importantly, I ask that you communicate with me if you are going to miss class or need to be late or leave early. You can reach me by cell phone or through

e-mail. I may need to re-arrange the order in which we do things in class based upon the number of students present for any given course meeting. University Closings or Cancelled Classes: Queens University offers QAlert, which will provide you with campus emergency notifications via voicemail, text message, and/or e-mail message. Please sign up for this service at You must register as a new user for each academic year. For more information about this service, please e-mail Should I need to cancel class for any reason, I will notify you by e-mail as soon as possible. Please check your e-mail prior to coming to campus each week. Honor Code and Plagiarism: The Honor Code, which permeates all phases of university life, is based on three fundamental principles. It assumes that Queens students: a)are truthful at all times, b) respect the property of others, and c)are honest on tests, examinations, term papers, and all other academic assignments. Plagiarism is representing anothers words or thoughts as ones own, and it is a clear violation of Queens Honor Code. It can take many forms including wordfor-word (global) plagiarism, or paraphrasing without providing proper citation of the source (patchwork). To learn more, please visit the Queens Center for Academic Success located on the lower level of Dana ( or the following website Please contact me if you have any questions about plagiarism or if you believe a violation of the Honor Code has occurred. Intellectual Property Policy: Queens University of Charlotte faculty and students adhere to the Queens Intellectual Property Policy. See the Faculty Handbook at and the Queens University of Charlotte website at for more information. Disability Accommodations: If you are a student with a documented disability and you require accommodations, please provide me with the necessary memorandum given to you by Student Disability Services. If you have additional questions or concerns about Disability Services at Queens University, please contact Sandy Rogelberg, Coordinator of Disability Services, at 704.337.2508.

Course Assignments: 1) Personal Reflection Paper-Prior Experiences (10%)- Compose a five-page paper reflecting on your past experiences in small groups and/or teams and how these experiences have shaped your current perception of group dynamics. In other words, how do you feel about groups and teams and why do you think you feel that way? What has shaped your attitude toward small groups? Include details of a meaningful or especially challenging group experience that you think influenced your understanding of small groups. This paper is meant to be a personal reflection, so you may not choose to refer to many outside sources. However, I do expect it to be submitted as a formal paper. 2) Organizational Profile Paper and Presentation (Paper is 15%, Presentation is 15%)-With your small group, select an organization that uses groups and teams in a significant or creative way and prepare a short, five-page paper and a 10 to 15 minute presentation for the class. Your group must collectively choose an appropriate organization of which you are not a member that relies upon groups or teams to accomplish its organizational objectives. Consider organizations to which you may be able to gain access and are recognizable to the rest of the class. You will need to let me know which organization you have chosen before you begin your project. As a group, collect information about the organization including the history, mission, position within the field, involvement in the local community, etc. Then, examine how small groups or teams are used specifically within the organization and when, how, or why the organization chooses to utilize teams. What are the benefits to the organization? What are the drawbacks or costs? How does it fit (if it does) with the overall mission? In other words, what about this company made you think it was a good fit for this assignment? To gather this information, you will need to find written material about the company, but you may also need to interview members of the organization, particularly those in management roles or members that have seen teams at work over a period of time. It might also be good to ask members of teams within the organization about their experience. What do they perceive are the strengths and challenges of a team approach? Is a team approach as beneficial in real life as it appears on paper? In the end, I want class members to gain exposure to and an understanding of what kinds of companies are using a team-based organizational model and why the organizations are doing so. Your group can communicate the information in a variety of ways, but I want to see that you have worked as a team, done some meaningful investigation, and drawn some conclusions about teams in todays organizations.

3) Case Study Facilitation (10%)- In a small group, you will facilitate one of the case studies that we examine in class. This includes reviewing the case before class, preparing discussion questions that will be relevant and thought-provoking, providing necessary background information for the case, engaging classmates in the discussion during class, drawing connections to the course material we have already covered and the material from that weeks lecture, and summarizing the class thoughts. Special attention will be paid to how you interact with your group members and how well your group elicits meaningful communication from the rest of the group. Make sure you are drawing connections with the material. Note: All cases studies are taken from: Keyton, J. & Shockley-Zalabak, P. (Eds.) (2010). Case Studies for Organizational Communication: Understanding Communication Processes (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 4) Group Dynamics Consulting Project (40%) You will take on the role of an organizational development discussion hired to evaluate a particular team and build its effectiveness in terms of cohesiveness and overall performance. You must determine the teams strengths and weaknesses and develop a practical intervention to build an effective team. Finally, you must determine the benefits of your findings for the larger organization and beyond. You may include additional outside research to bolster your findings. The scope and quality of your research should be appropriate for a Masters level course. As an individual, you must select a team to study. A team in which you participate regularly is preferable and will make your analysis easier to accomplish. You will conduct field research of the group and submit your findings and recommendations in a ten-page formal report that applies the theories that we have learned in class to support your findings. There are several parts to this project and you will proceed in several ways: Weekly Reflections I will give you weekly reflections in which you will reflect on your teams effectiveness as it relates to the topic covered in class. You are not required to hand in these assignments each week. However, you should type up some notes or a short reflection that you will attach to your final paper as an appendix. Making notes of specific examples, quotes, etc. for each topic covered in class will greatly improve and expedite your final paper. You may be asked to discuss your observations and findings with a partner or small group in class and you should be prepared to share some examples of the previous weeks topic in each class session. Field Research You should use a variety of research methods such as observations and interviews to analyze your team in order to determine your teams effectiveness. Take

careful notes of your methodology as you will need to include the details in your final report. Report (80% of project total) You will submit a 10-page research report that includes the following: An introduction in which you will describe your team, its history, characteristics, members, roles, etc. and the organization in which it exists. You will also need to include any long-term or short-term goals or objectives of your team. Include any other information that you feel would help an outsider understand the group. A methods section in which you outline how you conducted your research. Tell me how you gathered your data and organized the information. A findings section in which you interpret the events and interactions you observed. You will describe the teams strengths and weaknesses in detail giving examples and quotes to support your findings. Use the course material to support your findings as well. A recommendations section that outlines your proposed, practical solutions for addressing the specific challenges you found in your team. Remember, these recommendations must be interventions that could be used in real life. Think realistically and practically. Again, support your recommendations with course material. A key learnings section that summarizes your main thoughts. Give me the So what? Think about what your recommendations might mean for the larger organization and how they might be applied in other organizations or fields as well. What could someone who is not a member of your specific team learn from your work? A reference page. All sources used (course material and outside material) must be cited in APA format. Presentation (20% of project total) You will prepare a short (10 minute) presentation based on your company, research and findings. Be prepared to give us appropriate background information, explain your involvement in the team, and share your methods, findings and recommendations. This presentation, though brief, should give your classmates enough background information to understand your recommendations and key learnings. Think about what your classmates might gain from the work you have done. Also, be prepared to make a professional presentation, just as you would if you were a paid consultant. Powerpoint slides are recommended.

5) Participation (10%) You are asked to come to each class meeting on time, prepared and contribute to the class discussions and activities. In addition, you are expected to participate in your small group activities and complete all projects that are assigned. Remember that the quality of your comments is just as important as the quantity!

Course Calendar
Please note that the course calendar is subject to change at the discretion of the professor.



Readings Due

Assignments Due

January 20

Introduction to the Course Small Group Definitions, Characteristics, Coordinating Mechanisms Systems Theory

H & S, Ch. 1, 2 Supplement: (2006). Six teams that changed the world. Fortune. [online]. Available: agazines/fortune/sixteams_greatteams _fortune_061206/index.htm (January 17, 2011). H & S, Ch. 3, 4 Personal Reflection Case Study Paper Vesterman, J. (2006). From Wharton to War. Fortune. [online]. Available: agazines/fortune/marines_greatteams _fortune/index.htm (January 17, 2011). Deutschman, A. (2004). The fabric of creativity. Fast Company. [online]. Available: ne/89/open_gore.html?page=0,1 (January 17, 2011). H & S, Ch. 5 Case Study Kirsner, S. (2004). Time [zone] travelers. Fast Company. Available: ne/85/zones.html (January 17, 2011). H & S Ch. 6, 7

January 27

Norms, Roles and Group Development Case Study: No Laughing Matter by L. Dickmeyer & S. Dickmeyer

February 3

Diversity Case Study: Where Does It Hurt? by C. Irizarry

Case Study Group #1

February 10

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication, Listening

February 17

Conflict Management Guest Speaker: Dr. L. Randolph Lowry, III President, Lipscomb University

H & S, Ch. 12

February 24

Teams Case Study: Taking Charge by J. Keyton

H & S, Ch. 8 Case Study

Case Study Group #2

March 3

Decision Making and Problem Solving, Creativity Case Study: Permission to Walk by M. Kramer

Havorson, H. (2010). Many Heads Can Be Better Than One-Especially When They Belong to Women. Fast Company. Available /many-heads-can-be-better-than-oneespecially-when-they-belong-towomen (January 17, 2011). H & S Ch. 9, 10 Case Study Group #3 Case Study

March 10

Group Process and Presentations Organizational Profile Group Presentations

H & S, Ch. 11 Weil, E. (1998). Every Leader Tells A Story. Fast Company. Available: ne/15/rftf.html (January 17, 2011).

Organization al Profile Paper and Presentations

March 17



March 24

INDEPENDEN T WORK NIGHT-Time to catch up on your group dynamics consulting project! Leadership Observation and Evaluation H & S, Ch. 13, 14 McLean, b. & Nocera, J. (2010). Th Blundering Herd. Vanity Fair. Available: eatures/2010/11/financial-crisisexcerpt-201011 (January 17, 2011). H & S, Ch. 15 Case Study Malhotra, A. (2004). Using Far-Flung Virtual Teams for Managing Knowledge in Global Companies. UNC Business. Available: 4Fall/global.html (January 17, 2011).

March 31

April 7

ComputerMediated Communication Case Study: The Difficulties of Virtual Leaders by A. Lyon

Case Study Group #4

April 14

Film and Discussion Twelve Angry Men Review, Evaluation of Small Group Experiences, Catch Up

April 21 Last Day of Regular Class

May 2 Final Exam Period

Group Dynamics Consulting Projects Presentations

Group Dynamics Consulting Project