Curriculum Guideline

Working Effectively in Groups

Effective Date:
Course Code
CMNS 1210
Working Effectively in Groups
Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
4 hrs
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

This highly interactive course emphasizes learning through doing. Working individually or in small groups, students are involved in focused analysis and interpretation of interpersonal communication. A discussion-based teaching model is used with the expectation that students actively prepare for, participate in and extract meaning from case studies, simulations and role plays. Group meetings may be videotaped for analysis and evaluation of group process.

Course Description
In this highly interactive course, students gain knowledge and understanding of group theory and process. Students also learn skills that allow them to contribute to effective group functioning. Core theoretical components include group development, group dynamics, elements of effective and ineffective groups, and power in groups. Skills and structured tools for managing conflict in groups as a group member and leader are also examined.
Course Content

1. What is a group?

  • characteristics
  • kinds of groups
  • benefits and disadvantages of working in groups

2. What are some theoretical approaches to the study of group work?

  • models of group communication
  • systems theory
  • uncertainty reduction theory
  • symbolic convergence theory
  • social exchange theory

3. What are the elements of an effective group?

  • individual and relational satisfaction
  • clarity of goals and procedures
  • goal accomplishment
  • interaction process

4. What is the influence of self in groups?

  • communication style
  • assessment of preferences and challenges in group modalities

5. How do groups grow and develop?

  • models of development
  • group development phase and levels of group functioning
  • communication at different group phases

6. What roles do people take in groups?

  • roles as functions in a group system:

    • task functions
    • relational functions
    • hindering functions

7. How can one improve group effectiveness?

  • decision-making processes
  • tools for facilitating group process
    • brainstorming
    • creative decision making in groups
    • delphi, nominal group, syntectics techniques
  • problem-solving tools

8. What role does power play in group dynamics?

  • kinds of power
  • use and misuse of power in groups
  • balancing power for optimum group functioning

9. What ethical standards facilitate group work?

  • definitions and terms
  • ethical considerations in group work
  • standards for ethical group work

10. How does conflict manifest itself in groups?

  • definitions, terms and assumptions
  • sources of conflict in groups
  • differences in conflict between individuals
  • addressing conflict in groups
  • conditions for and factors influencing effective management of conflict in groups

11. What are some sources of group dysfunction?

  • task related dysfunction
  • dysfunction in group relationships
  • decision-making and problem-solving difficulties
  • groupthink

12. How can one help a dysfunctional group?

  • creativity as a counter to groupthink

13. What are some tools for assessing group effectiveness?

  • approaches to assessment of group effectiveness
  • evaluation tools
  • sharing and effectively implementing results of evaluation

14. How do leaders emerge in a group?

  • strategies for choosing a leader
    • appointing
    • electing
    • emerging leaders
    • collaborating in leadership

15. What constitutes “effective group leadership?”

  • traits
  • self-regulating skills
  • interpersonal, group and conflict management skills

16. How can one become a more effective group leader?

  • sources of leadership knowledge
  • gaining leadership skills
  • developing and articulating a vision.
Learning Outcomes

Overarching objective:

By the end of the course, successful students gain knowledge of foundational group theory and acquire interpersonal, team-work and leadership skills that allow them to work effectively in groups.


By the end of the course, successful students are able to:

  1. describe elements of effective groups
  2. explain a variety of group development models
  3. describe different types of power and their effects on groups
  4. articulate potential and actual sources of conflicts in groups
  5. describe a variety of group assessment tools
  6. describe the elements and strategies of effective leadership.


By the end of the course, successful students are able to:

  1. use theory, models and basic group concepts to discuss the nature and effects of group dynamics
  2. discern and respond to relational, task and individual needs in a group
  3. employ a variety of group process skills, including structured decision-making and problem-solving tools
  4. articulate a personal code of ethics for working in groups
  5. demonstrate foundational skills for managing conflict in groups
  6. diagnose and suggest effective remedies for group dysfunction.


By the end of the course, successful students gain appreciation for:

  1. the dynamic complexity of group participation
  2. their personal impact on group dynamics
  3. the value of working effectively in groups.


Means of Assessment
Analysis and discussion of current group skills 10%
Assessment and evaluation of improved group skills 10%
Case studies 15%
Team-based and individual analysis of group development 40%
Personal code of ethics for working in groups 15%
Professional conduct, participation and attendance 10%
Textbook Materials

Suggested texts:

  • Cragan, John F. and Wright, David W. Communication in small groups: Theory, process, skills (4th ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company, 1985.
  • Harris, Thomas E. and Sherblom, John C. Small group and team communication (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2002.


CMNS 1216 or permission of instructor.