Group assignment has always been a part of the assessment component in systems development unit. The purpose of group assignment is to mimic a real life situation where a group of systems professionals would get together to design and build a system. In some instances, due to individual personalities and other factors, it has been observed that not all group members will be totally committed to team work within the group.
A Group Evaluation Form has been designed for students attending a second year systems development unit offered by the School of Information Systems at Curtin University of Technology. Students who complete this form must evaluate their own contribution to the group and also the contributions of other group members. This form has worked effectively where a problem such as under performance of an individual was identified early during the semester rather than towards the end of the semester. For many groups, this early identification has typically resulted in the rejection and subsequent removal of the under performing member by the group. In this instance, the lecturer in charge is informed of the group's decision. Students having the right to choose whom they wish to work with inevitably gravitate towards those they are comfortable with. This paper identifies some of the problems faced by students who are rejected by their peers and discusses the emotional impact upon those who made the decision to remove a fellow student from their group and proposes ways of dealing with this common situation.
Bertcher (1979:14) defined a group as "a dynamic, social entity composed of two or more individuals, interacting interdependently in relation to one or more common goals that are valued by its members, so that each member influences and is influenced by every other member, to some degree, through face-to-face communication. Over time, if the individuals who comprise the group continue to assemble, they tend to develop means for determining who is and who is not a member, statuses and roles for members, and values and norms that regulate behaviour of consequence to the group." Bertcher's comprehensive definition of 'group' described the life cycle of group patterns of exploration, involvement, conflict, cohesion and work, and acknowledgement.
Product assessment looks at the final outcome of the group's work. This assessment assumed that if the final product of the group work is of high quality, the group must have worked well together. Process assessment takes into account the contributions of individual members of the group. This may result in uneven marks allocation per group member. It is sometimes left to the group to determine how the marks should be allocated. If all group members are satisfied with each member's contribution, the marks are allocated evenly. However, marks will not be allocated evenly if a group member has not contributed to the group work. The final assessment of observer assessment calls for the lecturer or tutor to observe the group. The observer would rate the way tasks are allocated and planned, and to see whether the member assigned to the tasks has carried out the activities satisfactorily.
Conflict must be effectively handled if it is not to be a barrier to progress, a cause of destruction of the group (Heron, 1989), or a source of physical or psychological damage to an individual (Tyson, 1998). Conflict can occur between people (one-to-one) or between groups (one-to-many or many-to-many). Internal problems seem to be one of the main causes of many group conflicts. Individuals who are said to be 'problematic' are often viewed as ineffective 'followers'. Followership as a concept has received much less attention in the literature than leadership, yet a good follower is crucial to the success of any group (Tyson, 1998). As shown in Table 1, Kelley (1988) classified ineffective followers as sheep, alienated, 'yes' people and survivor followers.
|Sheep||Passive, Uncritical, Lacking in initiative, Followers of instructions|
|Alienated||Disgruntled, Often cynical|
|'Yes' people||Dependent on leader, sometimes aggressively differential|
|Survivor||Live by the slogan 'better safe than sorry'|
Table 1: Kelley's Ineffective Followers
In contrast to these, Kelley (1988) speaks of self-confident followers who see other members as allies and leaders as equal.
Thankfully, the incident described previously ended in a Win-Win situation. The biggest issue in dealing with the situation was to give the problem time and a 'cool down' period. This situation may not have resulted in a Win-Win outcome if the situation was responded to immediately. Counselling services were offered to all parties involved (including the negotiator).
During the course of the group conflict in the earlier example, the group of students went through the course of negative emotional processes of alienation, suppression, displacement, degradation, and expression. This negative state is more evident in the rejected student and the student who was verbally abused. Over a period of a week or so, these negative states which were evident in the two students were transformed to the positive state of acceptance, control, and redirection.
The conflict given in this paper was solved by having open, honest and frank discussions and by approaching the situation calmly and to listen to reasons provided by all parties. As a definition of assessment Cartwright (1997) states that "assessment is the process of collecting a range of information about learners and their diverse achievement, and about performance, and making judgements about the significance of this information." In resolving conflict, it is hoped that as an educator we will not have to make judgement over who is right or wrong but to listen to all sides and be able to encourage all parties to communicate openly and honestly. By doing this, the emotional state of the person should move from a negative state to a positive one. From this experience, the conflict resolution should always take place on neutral ground such as on campus and not at anyone's 'comfortable zone' (for example at the home of a group member). Above all, as educators we should take the problem-solving approach to conflict resolution as a challenge. Conflict is positive, necessary, and manageable, but also has a negative potential for destructiveness that must be approached with care and understanding. Positive outcomes experienced in the classroom will hopefully remind the students that conflict in their present or future professional environment can be managed.
Cartwright, N. (1997). Assessment and Feedback - A Handbook for Tertiary Teachers. University of Ballarat, Victoria.
Heron, J. (1989). The Facilitators' Handbook. Kogan Page Ltd, New York.
Kelley, R. E. (1988). In Praise of Followers. Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec: 142-148.
Nightingale, P., Waita, I. T., Ryan, G., Hughes, C., and Magin, D. (1996). Assessing Learning in Universities. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
Tyson, T. (1998). Working with Groups. 2nd ed, Macmillan Education Australia.
Group Evaluation Form
|Members' Name||Always Late||Seldom on Time||Usually on Time||Always on Time||Ahead of Time|
Cooperation with Others
Has the team member made an effort to make the team work?
|Members' Name||Never cooperative||Seldom cooperative||Usually cooperative||Always cooperative||Very cooperative|
Quality of Contribution
To what degree has the team member cared about their own contribution?
|Members' Name||Minimal contribution||Below expectations||Average contribution||Above expectations||Sets standards|
Quality of Contribution
Did each team member do all that they offered / given to do?
|Members' Name||Below requirements||Somewhat lacking||Adequate response||Good effort||Superior effort|
Willingness to Assume Responsibility
Were they committed to completing the group assignment?
|Members' Name||Rejects responsibility||Reluctantly accepts||Accepts responsibility||Occasionally volunteers||Always accepts|
Knowledge of Work
Did they know what they were doing? Did anyone have to redo this person's work?
|Members' Name||Below expectations||Somewhat lacking||Good knowledge|
Attendance at Meetings
Did they attend meetings?
|Members' Name||Never attend||Always late||Usually attend||Always attend|
Participation in Team Work
Has the team member made an effort to participate in team meetings?
|Members' Name||Never participate||Seldom participate||Usually participate||Always participate||Very dominant|
Participation in Team Work
Were you able to go away from each meeting feeling that the team has achieved something?
|Usually Achieved Nothing|
Usually Achieved Something
Always Achieved Something
Quality of Contribution
Did anyone have to do this person's work?
|Yourself Yes No|
|Member 1: Yes No|
|Member 2: Yes No|
Overall Group Effort
Do you think this group is working as a TEAM?
Please speak to this member (Tick one or more or none):
Member 1 __ Member 2 __
General Comments on Group Effort
Adapted from Wicks, B.E. and Stribling, J. (1991). The Use of Peer Reviews for Evaluation of Individual Student Performance in Group Projects. Journal of Leisure and Recreational Education, 6, 46-56, as reported in Embury, L. (1997). Distribution of Marks in Group Work. In Tilbrook, R. (Ed) (1997), Showcasing Best Practice at ECU. Proceedings of the Best Practice Show Case, Edith Cowan University, 11 Dec 1996 Perth. http://www.cowan.edu.au/eddev/showcase/showcont.htm
Adapted with Permission from Mun, R., School of Chemical Engineering, Curtin University of Technology, 1997.
|Group Tasks Form|
Assignment 1 / Assignment 2
Group Members: _____________________________________________________
To do list / What the group set out to achieve -
Other Activities, General Comments:
|Please cite as: Chang, V. (1999). How can conflict within a group be managed? In K. Martin, N. Stanley and N. Davison (Eds), Teaching in the Disciplines/ Learning in Context, 59-66. Proceedings of the 8th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, The University of Western Australia, February 1999. Perth: UWA. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1999/chang.html|