Collaborate (a little)

(+ Weave it…?)

So, as Chris predicted in an email to me, my 4-weeks-late timetable was detrimental to my ability to complete this assignment. But, as the cliche’ goes, better late than never! As I completed the other assignments for this collection, I thought I could at least look at the revisions of the Small Group Communication Factors other student groups had created and then provide my own list, comparing the two and making notes about where my ideas differed from theirs. Then I discovered the Weave It choice assignment, which pretty much exactly described what I thought I would do to at least get some partial credit for unidirectional collaboration. I realize this may not be worth the full points (or maybe any points) for either assignment since I am sidestepping the presumed intention of Collaborate a Little–working together–but I’ll gratefully take whatever is given.

I opened all of the student blogs for the Collaborate assignment and chose one for each group that I thought was lucid. I settled on Deana’s post for one group and Nina’s post for the other. I did review the others, but the clear and concise explanations of group decisions and processes were the determining factor in my choice of these two. I copied the original communications factors into their into a table on a Google Doc, then added each of theirs, and went through each factor on each list to decide whether I agreed or disagreed with the statement and to what degree, highlighting them according to a key I created on the document. Finally, I filled in the right-most column with my revisions of the factors, and then adjusted formatting to fit it all on a single page.

As usual, if the embed doesn’t work on the other end for some reason, or if you want to see the entire document without scrolling, here’s the comparison chart.

Reflection –

The most surprising thing I found as I reviewed the original factors and the lists created by my cohort is how much I disagreed with. I don’t think of myself as contrary by nature, I tend to be pretty amiable, but maybe I need to reassess… I really wish that I had been a part of one or both of these groups, just to find out why they modified the factors in the way they did.

For the original list, I assumed it used wording like “best” and “most” to spark controversy and discussion among the groups, who would have to wrestle and struggle together to make revisions to which everyone could agree. Having this kind of group discussion about statements concerning group dynamics was, I thought, the true goal of the assignment. I felt like Deana, Abdullah, Sam, and Maureen sidestepped the “meta-assignment” by just dividing the factors and each revising a few, rather than hashing out together something to which they could all agree. I wasn’t clear from the other group whether they actually discussed any of them or if they just went with the changes Morgan made. It’s also entirely possible that I am misinterpreting their process, since I wasn’t a part of it at the time.

I was astonished to see how little the statements changed. Both student lists featured some items that were identical to the original, which I understand could occur if all group members accepted the statements as legitimate, but I thought that unlikely to occur because of the nature of the statements. Also, some of the revisions were just paraphrases of the original, which made me think that some people misinterpreted the assignment. Out of the 20 revisions, there are 11 that I consider to be near enough to the original that the essence of the factor is unchanged.

All that said, I do think the way in which both groups chose to create infographics made their lists nice to display. Much nicer looking than my comparison chart.

My Revisions

As I indicated above, I didn’t expect to be so unaligned with the group, although maybe I should have anticipated that because I haven’t exactly been in sync with them this summer… That said, I will attempt to justify and explain my revisions here, in lieu of not having any dialogue with the cohort.

  1. The most important goal for a group in this class is to learn.  (In this instance, to learn to work together.)
    The most important goal in any class is to learn. In this case, I think the assignment was about wrestling with some norms of group work that embody common struggles in new groups.
  2. The most productive groups will organize together, although a leader can be chosen if this proves too difficult for the group.
    I’m not sure I’m conveying what I want to with this statement. What I really mean is that leaders can be good either way, but the phrasing “leader steps forward” sounds like one bossy person taking control of the group. I don’t think this is the most productive organization of a group because it lacks the individual buy-in that a group will have when all people involved are excited to achieve a goal that has been discussed and agreed upon by all members. Having a leader can still be good, but they should be tasked with the leadership job by the consent of the group, and not just because they assume they are the best person to get things done and whip the peons into shape.
  3. If a synchronous meeting is the best method determined by the group, then everyone should be there.
    Not all tasks require a synchronous meeting, but those that do should have full attendance. If people want to be a part of a group, they should be there when the group decides to meet. (I fully realize the irony of this statement coming from me as I complete this group-intended assignment solo and 4 weeks late.)
  4. People and relationships are more important than assignments or grades; flourishing in tandem is the best method.  
    When I was younger, I would probably have agreed more with the original statement and the revisions by my fellow students. However, because of some paradigm shifts in my own life, I’ve discovered that relationships, and the people I have them with, are the most important things in my life. By extension, that should also be true of ALL people I am in contact with and ALL the relationships I make with them–because they are people too. Therefore, the best practice would be to work together to complete a group task in such a way that everyone has a chance to bring their best effort to showcase in the group product.
  5. Before respectfully disagreeing or providing critical feedback to a group member, it is beneficial to build a relationship with them through positive affirmation and/or shared experiences when possible.
    I strongly believe that if I want to encourage someone to change their behavior, I need to “earn the right to be heard” by first developing some rapport with them.
  6. Open, honest, and gentle communication is the best practice to avoid conflict escalation.  
    In my experience, confronting or avoiding the conflict sometimes just buries it in the form of resentment from the one who feels wronged. Therefore the practice is to talk it out, but all the while maintain empathy for where the other person is at.
  7. It may be helpful for group members to communicate their various goals and reasons for being involved.  
    Of course our goals and reasons are likely to be different, because WE are different. What isn’t always obvious is how helpful it can be to listen to the goals of the other people so we can develop understanding for one another before we begin.
  8. Discussion and consensus on action all members can agree to implement is the best method of group decision making.  
    When majority rules, the minority will always be upset. By the way, consensus doesn’t mean we all have to agree on every little thing, it means that we all get to have input in the decision and make our best attempt at a decision all parties are happy with. Barring that, some people can have dissent but agree to move forward for the good of the group. I think EVERYONE should read Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. (More on this in my “Who to Follow” blog post, coming soon to a website near you!)
  9. If a group member is not contributing, communicate with them individually and discover the reason; if the problem persists, the whole group can get involved.  
    I find that often privately expressing concern for the low-level contributor will help them get on board.
  10. Each member of a group should receive a grade based on their participation, effort, and product. 
    This is tricky to do, and probably not worth it for a little group assignment like this, but I have a method I have used for about 10 years for group projects with high school students that I am really happy with. At the end of a major group project, I assign a total number of points based on the merits of the final product as compared with my rubric/scoresheet, and then multiply the points by the number of people in the group. Then I hand the scoresheet back to the group and they decide how to divvy out the points amongst themselves. I also set parameters like “no one is allowed to earn more than 100%” and “you have to have a well-substantiated reason for more than a 1 letter grade difference between any two people in the group”. If any groups cannot agree then I will step in to mediate, but I rarely have to resort to that. Usually the people who did the most work wind up with the most points, and those who did less are happy they got something.

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