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Group Dynamics Manual
(Psy 340 & Lab)

Dr. John Suler

Science and Technology Center, Rm 320
Rider University - (609-895-5430)

* This is the manual I originally created for my Group Dynamics course. Since that time, the course and the manual have evolved quite a bit. If you're interested in hearing about any of those changes, feel free to contact me. For example, we now use online discussion boards to share process notes and discuss the group's dynamics. Here's an article about these kinds of discussion boards from my book The Psychology of Cyberspace.



Introduction

Welcome to Group Dynamics!

The design of this course is very different from typical undergraduate courses. There will be some lectures, but the course is mostly "experiential". If you really don't like discovering and revealing things about yourself, or feel very uncomfortable interacting with people in groups, you might not want to take this course.

The course consists of the following activities:

1. afternoon class (3x per week) discussions and exercises
2. process group meetings (morning lab - once a week)
3. task group meetings (morning lab - once a week)
4. group projects for your task group
5. special assignments
Exactly what do these involve? That's the purpose of this manual! Consider this your bible. Refer to it religiously! It's your responsibility to know the ins and outs of this course, and to ask questions if you don't understand something.

IMPORTANT: The task and process groups, as well as our afternoon classes, will always meet regardless of whether I am present. Even if I am out sick, for example, the groups and classes meet. If I am not present at a process group or for our afternoon class, you must write process notes for those meetings!!!


The Journal

Get a LOOSELEAF binder (the small ring type). This will be your home away from home. Everything you write will be kept in this binder. It will be an ongoing record of all your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to what goes on in this course.

In this journal you must include:

* Informal writings mostly will include "free-writes" that you do in class in reaction to our exercises and discussions, and other writing assignments completed at home.

REMEMBER TO:

Near the end of the semester I will collect and review your journal. Of course, I will not be grading you on how you describe your thoughts and feelings, but your grade for the journal WILL depend on:

(a) how complete it is
(b) whether it is well-organized and follows the above guidelines
(c) whether you showed "good faith" in using it.

The Process Group Meetings

We will break the class down into two groups. Once a week, each of these small groups will meet with yours truly in an unstructured group meeting. I describe these groups as "unstructured" because there is no concrete task for the group to accomplish. The members do not "have" to do anything in particular, and I will NOT be telling people what to do (which will get on your nerves sometimes). Whatever the group wants to talk about or do will be its decision.

However, as the "facilitator" of the group, I will be encouraging people to recognize and understand the "process" of what happens. In other words, I will try to help people see not only WHAT is happening in the group, but also HOW and WHY those things are happening. Essentially, this means helping people learn about the way they interact with others in the group, and about the changes in the interpersonal interactions within and across meetings.

Revealing yourself to other people ("self-disclosure"), sharing your thoughts and feelings about how you perceive other people in the group ("feedback"), and making observations about the group process, all constitute the Learning Environment ("LE" for short). As the facilitator, I will always be encouraging the group to move into the LE.

There will be penalties for being absent or late to this group (see "Grading System").

Sounds simple, right? If this does not make sense right now, hold on! Our class mini-lectures will clarify these ideas.

You too will be responsible for analyzing the group process. After each session, you will be handing in a written summary of your observations (see "Notes for the Process Group"). I recommend that you do NOT take notes during the group. See if you can figure out why.

No one will be graded for anything they do IN THE GROUP. You could, theoretically, not talk at all and this would not detract from your grade. However, you surely WILL LEARN MORE and get a lot more personally out of the group IF YOU PARTICIPATE. People who participate tend to get higher grades. You WILL be graded on your process notes.

This kind of group is a good testing ground for those interested in being a counselor or psychotherapist. Understanding interpersonal and group dynamics is one of the basic skills of the therapist. And it is also a skill that is extremely useful for anyone, in any professional or business setting, who works with groups of people. And last, but not least, being in this group will help you understand how you react to people and how they react to you.


The Task Group Meetings

Once each week your team will meet (without me, though I may pop in at times) for at least one hour. EVERYONE MUST ATTEND. The purpose of this meeting is for the team to discuss, organize, and make plans concerning their projects (see "The Group Projects"). It is up to the team to decide exactly how to use this time. USE THIS TIME WISELY, because it will probably be the only time that the whole team will be able to meet together.

There will be penalties for being absent or late to this meeting (see "Grading System").

It is normal for people to "goof off" some of the time during these meetings. However, there should always be plenty of work to do. Remember, you have projects to carry out!

Each member of the group will be required to hand in a written analysis of each group meeting. This analysis should include a brief description of the group's decisions and plans, but, most importantly, an ANALYSIS OF THE GROUP PROCESS (see "Writing Process Notes for the Task Group").


What if you miss a group?

Missing a process or task group meeting should be taken seriously. What was it like to miss the meeting? How will your absence affect the group and your role in it? How do you think other people will react to your absence? Talk to people about what happened in the meeting you missed. Do different people describe the meeting differently? What might that mean?

Write about these things in your process notes for that meeting! Process notes must be written for ALL meetings (see Writing Process Notes for the Process and Task Group).


The Group Projects

In addition to some small tasks that I may assign to the task groups, your group will be responsible for carrying out two large projects:

Project 1: The Group Presentation

At the end of the semester your task group will do a 45 minute in-class presentation. The presentation can be as creative and original as you like. Use role plays, demonstrations, visual aids, whatever. However, it must be educational and relevant to our course, and it must include the participation of all the members in your group.

Project 2: The Textbook Proficiency Projects

There are no exams on the textbook. So how can I be sure you will read it? Here's how.... Your group will be responsible for designing, carrying out, and evaluating three different activities that encourage people in your group to read the textbook. These activities can be WHATEVER you want, so here's your chance to be creative again. But the activities must:

For EACH activity, your group will hand in a report (at least one page, single-spaced, typed, double-space between paragraphs) that describes EXACTLY what you did for each activity and how well it worked. I will reject projects that inadequately encourage people to learn the textbook. The group will have to do it over. If you want, hand in a short "preliminary" description of your plans before you undertake the project, so I can give you feedback beforehand. If it becomes clear that people are not learning the textbook, I will give an exam.

Each project must be SIGNIFICANTLY different from the others.

Deadlines: for handing in the reports:

Point deductions (deducted from each person's total # of points for the course)
5 points for each day a report is late
50 points for not handing in a report
10 points for a less than adequate report


Writing Process Notes for the Process Group

Everyone must hand in process notes after each meeting of the process group. The purpose of writing these process notes is to analyze the process of events that occur in each group. In other words, describe not only WHAT happened, but HOW AND WHY those things happened. To get at the "process" underlying what occurs, you need to "read between the lines."

1. Consider the following questions:

2. Look over the textbook and your notes from class to get ideas. Apply important concepts and theories (see "Using Terms and Concepts from the Textbook")

3. Describe what people said and did, but also describe the group (and its process) as a whole. Pay attention to how the group changes over time.

4. BE SURE TO DESCRIBE THE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS YOU HAD about the group. What role did you play in the group?

Try to write your process notes immediately after each session, or at least jot down ideas right away. The longer you wait, the more you will forget.

The notes should be about 250 words, and NO MORE than one side of a page. TYPE your notes, single-spaced, leaving a blank line between paragraphs. Don't worry about typos. Put the date of the group meeting on the page.

Notes are due IN THE NEXT CLASS after the group meets. NO LATER. Points will be deducted for late notes (see "Grading system")

The "audience" for these process notes is me. I am the only one who will see them, unless I tell you otherwise in advance. Write your notes knowing that I too was in the group with you, so you don't have to excessively describe "what happened." You also can assume that I will understand terms and concepts without your having to define them.


Writing Process Notes for the Task Group

Everyone must hand in process notes after each meeting of the task group. The purpose of writing these notes is to analyze the process of events that occurred in the meeting. You may briefly describe WHAT happened during the meeting, but it is more important to focus on HOW and WHY things happened.

1. Follow the same guidelines for writing process notes for the process group (see previous page). Pay particular attention to issues that are especially important to task groups. For example:

2. Be sure to apply concepts and theories that were discussed in class and in the textbook (see "Using Terms and Concepts from the Textbook")

3. Describe what individual people did, but also describe the group (and its process) as a whole. How is the group changing over time? It is the PROCESS that is most important!

4. How do people interact OUTSIDE of formal group meetings? How do these alliances affect the group?

5. Be sure to describe your personal thoughts and feelings about the group. What role did you play in it? w It is always best to write your notes immediately after each meeting, or at least jot down ideas right away. The longer you wait, the more you will forget. The notes should be AT LEAST 250 words and no longer than one side of a page. Type your notes, single-spaced, leaving a blank line between paragraphs. Don't worry about typos. Put the date of the group meeting on the page. The notes are due in the next class after the group meets. NO LATER. Points will be deducted for lateness (see "Grading System").

The "audience" for these process notes is me, the professor who understands the terms and concepts about group dynamics (so you don't have to define them) - however, I am not present during the meeting, so make it clear to me what happened, and, most importantly, the underlying "process" that accounted for what happened.


Writing the Final Analysis of the Process Group

The final analysis of the process group should be a summary of your observations in the process notes. It is a summary of your overall conclusions about the group dynamics. Also consider:

4-5 typed double-spaced pages (MUST BE TYPED)

Be sure to apply concepts that were discussed in class and in the textbook. CITE THE TEXTBOOK AT LEAST 7 TIMES (cite a specific page number).


Writing the Final Analysis of the Task Group

These papers should summarize your analysis of the task group and how it carried out its project. It should include an analysis of what occurred in the group meetings as well as an analysis of how members interacted and communicated outside of formal meetings. Consider the following:

4- 5 typed, double-spaced pages (MUST BE TYPED)

Be sure to apply concepts that were discussed in class and in the textbook. CITE THE TEXTBOOK AT LEAST 7 TIMES (cite specific page numbers).


Using Terms and Concepts from the Textbook

In your process notes and final analyses of the groups you should use terms and concepts from the textbook. Whether or not you use these terms and how accurately you use them will affect your grades. Look at the titles of the sections in the book and at boldface terms to see what words you should be using. Don't use terms willy-nilly. Integrate them into your paper in a meaningful way. Every time you use a term underline it in your paper.


Special Assignment: The Observation of a Class

You will attend any class on campus that you choose. Observe the group dynamics. In a short paper (250 words, one page only) describe your analysis of these dynamics. Apply the same ideas that you use for analyzing task and process groups. The style for writing this paper is similar to that for the process and task group process notes - except that you must start the paper off with a description of the class composition, size, where it meets, and any other information that gives me a "feel" for how the class appears or what its purpose is. Do not mention the name of the professor, the title of the course, or the names of any of the students.

Also consider:

Try to get to the class early. Observe and report on how the students interact with each other and with the professor before the class actually starts. This information will be important for understanding the class when it is in progress.

You must contact the professor at least one hour before the class to get permission to attend. No more than three students can observe the same class at the same time


Special Assignment: The In Vivo Observation

You will locate and observe any group on campus IN VIVO - in other words, a group in its "natural setting." The cafeteria will probably be the best setting to locate such a group, although you may try the library, lounges, dorms, etc. The group must consist of at least three people and you must observe them for AT LEAST 20 MINUTES. If the group breaks up before 20 minutes are up, locate and observe another group for the remainder of the time. TAKE NOTES!

This paper will follow the same style as your process notes for the task and process group - except that you must begin the paper with a description of the group size, composition, where it is meeting, its purpose, and any other information that gives me a "feel" for how the group appears. Do not mention the names of the people in the group or any other information that might reveal who these people are. In your paper:

TRY TO BE UNOBTRUSIVE. Try not to stare at people: Mom always said it's not polite. If people ARE aware of your watching them, how does this affect the group process? You may not be able to hear all of what the people are saying, so you will have to be sensitive to body language and facial expressions. Even if you cannot hear the people at all, it is still possible to analyze the dynamics (believe it or not)!

You may work together, but must hand in separate papers. The paper must be typed and at least 250 words; one page only.


Grading System


Point Deductions (here's where I get tough):

You are permitted to miss (with a valid excuse) one process group, one task group, and 3 classes. For each absence after that, there will be a deduction of 10 POINTS. If you miss a scheduled task group meeting, you owe the team one hour of work. It's the team's obligation to report in the process notes that someone was absent.

You may come late (i.e. more than 5 minutes) or leave early from a task or process group only twice. After that there will be a 5 POINT deduction. It is the team's obligation to report in their process notes that someone was late.

Handing in process notes AFTER the deadline will result in a deduction of 1 POINT. For each day thereafter the assignment is late there will be a deduction of 1 POINT.

For each day the final analyses are handed in late, there will be a deduction of 5 POINTS.

Other Deviant Behavior: In any group there will be times when people consistently or blatantly violate the norms. In the case of our groups, there are many ways this could happen (disrupting the groups, failing to do assignments for your task group, assassinating Dr. Suler, etc.). Point deductions may be deducted for these deviant behaviors at the discretion of the professor.


Bonus Points (you can't say I never gave you anything):

Sometime during the semester I will assign bonus points to both groups. It is up to the group to decide how to distribute these points among its members. You may want to distribute the points according to how hard each person worked, but this is up to you. It is the group's responsibility to report its decision to me, no later than the last day of classes.

Final Grade for the Course Your final letter grade for the course is determined by the percentage score you obtain. During the semester you can calculate your percentage score (and thereby estimate your letter grade at that point in the semester) based on all the assignments completed up to that point in the semester.

Percentage score = (total points you accumulated/total points possible) x 100



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