Syllabus: Group Processes

Psy 457/557, Spring 2001, 11-12:20 AM Tues/Thurs, 146 Straub

Professor: Dr. Holly Arrow Phone: 346-1996
Office: 357 Straub Office Hours: Mon 9:30-10:30, Thurs 9-10 & by appt.

Home page:

Class page:

Blackboard conference: Psy457S01 For more info on Blackboard, see end of syllabus


Course Description: This course has three interrelated goals:

1) acquaint you with theory and research on small groups

2) improve your skills as participant in & observer of small groups

3) develop your ability to think analytically and write clearly about group processes

Course Prerequisites

1) Psych 302 and 303.

2) Ability to write well-organized, carefully reasoned, grammatically correct prose.


Differ somewhat for undergrads (457) and grads (557). Grads see points 1b, 4b, 5b.

Overview of workload: There will be two exams, a research paper, and a take-home final. Participation in class exercises and data collection for the research projects are also required. Grad students will take exams with the class, but have different assignments for the paper and final.

1a. Participation

Attendance is required. If you can't attend class faithfully, don't take this course .

You will be working in small groups each week. Students will work in different 4 or 5-person groups in the first two weeks. In week 3, students will form permanent groups for the rest of the term. If a permanent group member (1) routinely misses class (2) does not come prepared for group assignments or (3) behaves badly, groups may petition to drop that member in week 5. Dropped members may join a different group or complete course work individually. Members unhappy with their group may also move to different groups if all agree about the change. Group members will rate the quality of one another's participation at the end of the course.

All students must also take part in the data collection for the research reports, and share data on their group by posting it on the Blackboard site.

1b. Grad students: After moving around to different small groups during the early rotations,

you will work together in a separate group. You may also be called upon for special assistance with some of the class exercises.

2. Readings

The three required books are D. R. Forsyth, Group dynamics (2d ed.), A. Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton's incredible voyage, and J. Krakauer, Into thin air. Strunk & White's The elements of style (any edition)is strongly recommended as a guide to clear writing.

3. Exams

Exams in weeks 4 and 8 will cover Forsyth, Lansing, plus material covered in class. The in-class portion will be multiple choice and short answer. Students will complete the multiple choice portion individually, turn in scantrons, then work on short answer questions with their groups and decide on group answers for the multiple choice questions. The take-home portion--answers to several short essay questions- will also be completed by groups. Typed, carefully proofread answers are due at the beginning of the in-class exam. These brief essays should be carefully reasoned, clearly written, and grammatically correct (follow S&W guidelines!) Every sentence should contain specific, meaningful information that is clearly related to the assignment, and opinions should be directly supported with evidence from the readings (cite author, date, page number). Limit essay answers to 150 words each.

4a. Research report (& poster for triads or quartets)

This formal paper will analyze data collected in and by the class about the class groups. This paper should be 7-10 pp. double-spaced and follow APA format.

The report should start (1) with a title page and (2) an abstract of no more than 200 words. The body of the paper should (3) Introduce the study, citing relevant literature; (4) describe the research procedure and participants (methods section); (5) present your findings (results section); (6) connect the findings to the literature on small groups and discuss implications (discussion section); and (7) note the limitations of the study, including at least one recommendation for improvement in design or execution. The paper should (8) have at least one figure, (9) all references cited should be presented at the end of the paper. (10) Describe the division of labor between authors in a note at the end of the text.

Students may complete the assignment in pairs (paper only) or in groups of 3 or 4 (paper plus a poster). The division of labor must be negotiated early and cleared with the instructor. Students who want to work individually must also get instructor's permission.

*** Final papers NOT ACCEPTED if early draft has not been turned in for comments.****

4b. Grad student paper

Grad students will complete papers individually, and will read and critique drafts of one another's papers. The paper will be a literature review of an area of small groups research. Based on your reading of at least 10 different articles or book chapters published in the past ten years, identify (1) the different approaches used to study the topic; (2) the types of groups studied (3) the primary findings; and (4) an important question not been addressed by the literature you read. Limit of 10 pages double-spaced, including title page.

5a. Take-home final (undergrads, 457)

Complete individually. Make three specific recommendations that will help solve the problems with Everest expeditions by changing the group dynamics within and between expeditions. Format: 3 pp. double-spaced. Each recommendation should be clear, concrete, and specific. Identify what specific problem or problems each suggested change will address, and why you are confident it will be effective. Use the small groups literature to support your argument.

Final continued: Take one of the following approaches:

1. Assume you are making recommendations to the Nepalese government. What three specific changes in government policies or regulations would you recommend, how would they change the inter- or intragroup dynamics of Everest expeditions, and how would these changes reduce the annual death toll on Everest without reducing income for Nepal?

2. Assume you are presenting at a conference attended by existing Everest expedition leaders. Present two specific recommendations for how they can alter intergroup relations between the expedition to address problems such as those described by Krakauer. Include one recommendation for what to do if some of the expedition leaders refuse to cooperate.

3. Assume you are advising a new expedition leader. Present two specific recommendations on how to organize an expedition to prevent intragroup problems that threaten the safety of clients, and include one recommendation on how members of their expedition should handle relations with members of other expedition.

5b. Final paper for grad students (557): Case study or research proposal

Case study option: Write a case study based on your observations of a small group (size 3-25) and/or interviews with its members (Note: this should not be one of the class groups.) Be sure to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the group and analyze what you see as the contributing factors to these strengths and weaknesses. Consider composition, structure, task, context, and group development. Make one specific recommendation for improving the functioning of the group. The paper should have 4 sections: Intro, description, analysis, and recommendation.

Research proposal: Write a research proposal for a study of small groups. Assume you have unlimited funds. Briefly summarize the theory relevant to your topic, identify the research question you plan to address, present your hypotheses and your research design. Discuss how you would interpret results that are contrary to your hypotheses.

Either option: Limit 8 pages double-spaced, including title page.


Elements Points Course grades based on total points earned
Participation 20 A+ 97-100 C 73-76.9
Exam 1 20 A 93-96.9 C- 70-72.9
Exam 2 20 A- 90-92.9 D+ 67-69.9
Research report/lit rev 20 B+ 87-89.9 D 63-66.9
Final 20 B 83-86.9 D- 60-62.9
B- 80-82.9 N < 70
TOTAL points 100 C+ 77-79.9 P 70

Late penalties: Five-point penalty for late papers, unless you have prior approval based of some catastrophic life event. No research reports accepted after 4 PM Friday June 8. No final papers accepted after 4 PM Friday June 15. Posters must be presented during the poster party (no late posters accepted).

Readings and Assignments

Week One Topic / Focus Reading Other Events
Tues April 3 Science & Practice of Group Dynamics Forsyth, Chs. 1 & 2,

Arrow & McGrath 1995

First temporary group
Thur April 5 Post message on Blackboard
Week Two
Tues April 10 Individual, Member, Group Forsyth, Chs. 3 & 4

Lansing, Parts I-III

(pp. 1-138)

Second temporary group
Thur April 12 SYMLOG coding of group
Week Three
Tues April 17 Structure & Leadership Forsyth, Chs. 5 & 12

Lansing, Parts IV-VII & Epilogue (pp. 140-280)

Permanent groups
Thurs April 19 Role & SYMLOG coding
Week Four
Tues April 24 Integration(Tues) and

Exam ( Thurs)

Review of Lansing & Forsyth Chs 1-5, 12 Wk 2-3 data on Blackboard
Thurs April 26 Take-home Exam QQ due
Week Five
Tues May 1 Cohesion, Development, Influence Forsyth, Chs. 6 & 7

Role & SYMLOG coding
Thurs May 3 Influence & GEQ coding
Week Six
Tues May 8 Power & Conflict Forsyth, Chs. 8 & 9, 13 *Plan for research report due*
Thurs May 10 Tribal competition
Week Seven
Tues May 15 Performance & Decision Making Forsyth, Ch. 10 & 11

Krakauer, Chs 1-6

Influence & GEQ coding
Thurs May 17 **All data on Blackboard**
Week Eight
Tues May 22 The Group Environment Forsyth, Ch. 14

Krakauer, Chs 7-12

Discussion of Krakauer
Thurs May 24 **First draft research report**
Week Nine
Tues May 29 Exam (Tues)

& work on

Research Reports

Krakauer, Chs 13-21.

Review Forsyth 6-11

Res. report drafts returned
Thurs May 31 Discussion of Krakauer
Week Ten
Tues June 5 Poster Party No new reading! Posters, Research reports due
Thurs June 7 Top 10 List Class & Groupmate Evals
Finals Week Paper due 8 AM Friday June 15, my office. Slide under my door if I'm not in.

Poster Preparation Guidelines

How a Poster differs from a paper:

A poster is not a paper tacked on to cardboard. It is a radically shortened and visually enhanced presentation of the main elements of a paper. Think of it as an extended, illustrated abstract meant for browsing rather than sequential linear reading.


1. Size of poster: 3 feet by 4 feet max (may be smaller)

2. Size of type: Should be able to read main text and see figures or tables or diagrams clearly from 5 feet away (references can be smaller). This means minimum 18-20 point type or so depending on which font you use. Use larger bold type for headings.

3. Type font: Use something straightforward. Not Algerian or braggadocio. Print out a sample of your preferred font in large size and view from a distance to check readability.

4. The flow of your poster should be downwards in columns, starting at the TOP LEFT and ending at the BOTTOM RIGHT. Arrange pages to emphasize this visually (with a decent column space so people don't think they should read across).

5. Make sure all words are spelled correctly. Typos in Tweny-Fore point are even more embarrassing than typis in smalle text.


1. The ideal poster is designed to (a) attract attention; (b) provide a clear summary of key ideas and findings in your paper; and (c) initiate discussion.

2. Colored background will make white pages stand out more. Using graphics (tables, simple figures, or an arrangement of words and arrows to express ideas) helps with goals (a) and (b).

3. Highlighting surprising findings and unanswered questions will (c) help stimulate discussion. You want to spark discussion about ideas and findings, however, so make your poster itself as self-explanatory as possible (so discussion is not about "What does this mean?").


1. Title of poster

2. Your names & affiliation (Department of Psychology, or University of Oregon)

3. Abstract (quick summary of contents-briefer than your paper abstract)

4. Body of poster: What you did, what you found. Focus on most interesting findings.

5. Include a graphic of some sort.

6. Discussion. What it means. Unanswered questions or troubling issues are useful.

7. References (smaller font okay for references)


Your Group Skills (+2 very strong +1 strong 0 okay -1 weak - 2 very weak) Wk 1 Wk 10

1. Communicate ideas effectively (self-expression) ___ ___

2. Listen to and understand others (empathy, perspective taking) ___ ___

3. Help others understand themselves with constructive feedback (guide) ___ ___

4. Seek feedback from others to know yourself better (personal growth) ___ ___

5. Establish rapport with others (make connections) ___ ___

6. Monitor and manage your own emotions (self-management) ___ ___

7. Organize people to achieve tasks (task leader) ___ ___

8. Identify and fill needed roles in the group (social flexibility) ___ ___

9. Promote group morale and cohesion (socio-emotional leader) ___ ___

10. Resolve conflicts and negotiate agreements (mediator) ___ ___

11. Analyze structural causes of group dynamics (social analysis) ___ ___