COM 520 Small Group Communication

Fall, 2014


Instructor: Dr. Marcia D. Dixson
Office hours: T 11:00 - 1:00; R 4:15 - 5:45 pm and by appointment
Office: NF 230B
Phone: 481-6558 Email:


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Course objectives:

1) To be able to apply the primary theories of small group communication
2) To be able to observe, analyze, and evaluate small group communication
3) To recognize the influence of mode of communication on group communication.
4) To be able to evaluate various theories and analysis methods of small group communication

Course textbook:

Hirokawa, R.Y., Cathcart, R.S., Samovar, L.A., and Henman, L.D. (2003). Small Group Communication: Theory and Practice. LosAngeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing Company.

Course requirements:

Percent of grade
Individual assignments  
35% Methods application/comparison
Theory analysis.
Report on FTF vs. chat vs. discussion forum for problem solving groups.
Model application
Group assignments  
20% Mini-projects with webpages (2 @ 10% each)
20% Theory/concept lit review and evaluation presentations, paper and webpage
Could be either individual or group assignments  
15% Final
10% Participation/homework

Course policies:

Teaching Philosphy:

My job here is to facilitate your learning; to provide you with a variety of opportunities to learn the content of this course. To that end, I am generally willing to work with any student who is willing to work as well. But, I expect you to work. If you do your part; i.e., come to class prepared having read and considered the material, complete assignments thoroughly and on time, I absolutely enjoy doing my part. If you have questions or concerns about the class, assignments or content, you should consult with me about those either in person or via email. My services as a facilitator and guide come with the tuition you paid for the course, do not be shy about using them!

Helpful places on campus:

Description of major assignments

Individual assignments: 35%

Methods applicaton. Write a 1-2 page paper which evaluates and compares the methods (using the information you have gained from Steps One-Three on Part VIII webpage). Talk about which method seemed to work best, in this context, and why. In what contexts might the other methods be more useful? Due September 4.

Theory analysis. For this paper, you will be assigned one of the theories from Part II. You are to use that theory to analyze the group from the movie shown in class. Discuss not only what aspect of this group you “see” due to the theory but how the particular theoretical perspective highlights group characteristics and processes you might not otherwise have noticed. 2 pages maximum, double spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point font. Due September 18.

Report on FTF vs. chat vs. discussion for problem solving groups. This paper requires two steps: 1) participate in a FTF (in class), chat (during class time) and discussion forum (during that week) to solve three different but similar types of problems as a group; then, 2) using participant observation methods (participate and try to observe at the same time), analyze, compare and evaluate the mode of communication for solving problems in groups. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each mode of communication for this type of process? Is there a particular kind of group situation where you feel one mode is superior to the other three (please don’t state the obvious of when people in the group are not in geographic proximity). Consider the four characteristics of that distinguish virtual groups from traditional groups in Chapter 3 (pp. 20-21). 2 pages maximum, double spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point font. Due October 2.

Model application. To test the validity and utility of these two models, you will try to apply the models to the sequence of conversation in the recent discussion forum or chat group discussions. Be prepared to discuss the "fit" of the model to your discussion. Apply the model to either your group's discussion forum or your chat discussion. Your thesis should be "This model fits or does not fit [choose one] our discussion because . . ." Apply the information from either Chapter 7 or 8 (with in-text citation and a reference page please). And, of course, 2 pages maximum, 12 point font, double-spaced, cover page, and 1 inch margins. Due October 30.

Group assignments 40%

Here's your groups!

20% Mini-projects with webpages (2). These are a chance to see if what we are learning holds up in the “real world.” You will choose a particular concept, idea, group process and create a way to do some informal research on that subject. You may use the observations methods from Part VIII but are not required to do so. Each project must be approved by me before you begin. Presentations should be 20-30 minutes. All members of the group should participate in at least one of the project presentations. Due October 9 and November 13. Need help with webpages? Grading rubric

20% Theory/concept literature review and evaluation presentations, paper and webpage: This is a group paper and presentation in which you synthesize, analyze, and evaluate the research that has been done within a particular theoretical framework or on leadership. The thesis should evaluate the theory/concept itself in terms of what it offers to our understanding of group communication. Use APA style, 7-10 pages, at least 15-20 sources. Presentation should include all members of the group and last 20-30 minutes. Due December 11.

Could be either individual or group assignments

15% Final

10% Participation/homework. A good deal of what you will learn in this class will be from scholarly discussion with your peers. Therefore, attendance is important to your learning. Be here, be prepared, contribute! We will do small group exercises as well as whole class discussions critiquing the readings or particular applications of the concepts from the readings. Points for these are generally awarded based on completion. It is very difficult to obtain group points by yourself, making class attendance important to your grade as well.

Tentative Agenda

Reading questions will be revised a week in advance of the class - so check back often!!


28 Orientation and Part VIII: Chapter 22, 23 & 24 plus participant observation reading in Blackboard


4 Methods assignment due; Part II Theories: Chapters 4, 5 & 6 plus readings for functional theory, symbolic convergence, roles & rituals, and structuration in juries in Blackboard

11 Theory analysis exercise - Theory Assignments; group time. Email RQ for first mini-projet to me

18 Theory paper Due; Part I: Chapters 1, 2 & 3 plus structuration in juries and interact systems model in Blackboard

Discussion forum will run from 19th to 26th.

25 FTF Chat


2 Report on FTF vs. chat vs. discussion forum for problem solving groups due; Part VII: Chapters 19, 20 & 21 plus diversity in groups and gender & leadership in Blackboard

9 Present mini-projects; group time

16 Part III: Chapters 7 & 8 plus multiple sequence model and punctuated equilibrium in Blackboard

23 T- groups; Group time : RQ for Second mini-project due - emailed to me please

30 Model application due; Part IV: Chapters 9, 10 & 11 plus PAT, SCT & CMC in Blackboard


6 Part V: Chapters 12, 13, 14 & 15; plus surgical teams in Blackboard; look ahead to Part VI

13 Present mini-projects

20 Group time

27 Thanksgiving


4 Part VI: Chapters 16, 17 & 18 plus dialectics & leadership, shared leadership, and distributed leadership in Blackboard

11Theory/Concept Presentations:

18 Final 6:15 - 8:15 pm