ERIC Number: ED384871
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1995-Mar
Democracy and Leadership in Basic Writing Small Groups.
Commonly accepted ideas, on the one hand, about how small groups in a writing class should work and, on the other hand, psychological research about what makes a small group work well are not consistent. Social psychologist Clovis Shepherd claims that the "popular notion that the democratic ideal is a group in which all members exert an equal amount of leadership may be a desirable ideology but it has little support in research." Shepherd, in reviewing research on small group dynamics, came up with several interesting criteria for a successful group: (1) each member knows what his or her role is; (2) the group takes action through consensus (all have a say and all give consent) rather than through majority vote or minority railroading; and (3) the group has full and open communication. Another social theorist, Cecil Gibb, adds another surprise: leadership, she maintains, is situational; that is, the leader is not an enduring role held by one person but the one that is filled by that person who at a particular moment can contribute the most. Observations of student small groups in a basic writing course support some of these findings. In one group, for instance, a group leader clearly emerged, and, as a result, all members considered the group successful. Had the instructor not been familiar with the above research, she might have interrupted the group's activity and tried to control the amount of talking and directing the leader was doing. Other groups provided less definitive contributions to the issue of group dynamics; the research on small groups, on the whole, has revealed "many trees and no forest." (TB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A