Chapter 8: Small Group Communication

8.1 Introduction

Learning Objectives

After reading this module you should be able to:

  • Define what constitutes a group.
  • Identify group roles.
  • Understand different styles of leadership in groups.
  • Recognize options for decision making in groups.
  • Identify the six steps to problem-solving in groups.

Have you ever had this happen to you in a college class- at the beginning of the semester, your professor hands out the syllabus and explains that a group project is part of the course requirements? You and others in the class groan at the idea of this project because you have experienced the difficulties and frustrations of working in a group, especially when your grade depends on the work of others. Does this sound familiar? Why do you think so many students react negatively to these types of assignments? Group work can be fraught with complications. However, according to Forbes magazine, the reality is, many companies are promoting groups as the model working environment (Adams, 2014).

three people working on a dissection project
“When I die, I would like the people I did group projects with to lower me into my grave so they can let me down one last time.” – Jessica Clydesdale, frustrated student.

Chances are that a class assignment is not your first and only experience with groups. Most likely, you have already spent and will continue to spend, a great deal of your time working in groups. You may be involved with school athletics in which you are part of a specialized group called a team. You may be part of a work or professional group. Many of you participate in social, religious, and/or political groups. The family in which you were raised, regardless of the configuration, is also a group. No matter what the specific focus—sports, profession, politics, or family—all groups share some common features.

While group communication is growing in popularity and emphasis, both at the academic and corporate levels, it is not a new area of study. The emergence of group communication study came about in the mid-1950s, following World War II, and has been a focus of study ever since. Group communication is often closely aligned with interpersonal communication and organizational communication which is why we have placed it as a chapter in between these two areas of specialization. In your personal, civic, professional lives, you will engage in group communication.


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