Last week http://scied88.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/group-work/ discussed group work in education. This inspired me to expand on the use of group work in schools, but instead, I am going to focus on the way people behave when they are involved in group work. Although people act differently in group tasks, I do believe that group work in education should be supported!
Think back to when you have been asked to work in a group, the group is formed of people showing different behaviours; there’s usually at least one person who doesn’t pull their weight and others who get stressed and have to do loads of work due to this. Why do we act like this when involved with group work, and how does this affect the way we learn?
Ringelmann (1913) noticed that when individuals were placed in a group, their individual efforts decreased as the group size increased, it is considered that this is due to motivation loss. This loss of motivation has been termed social loafing (Latane, Williams & Harkins 1979) and could explain why some people don’t pull their weight in group activities. It is suggested that social loafing occurs because the individuals within the group feel as though they can get away with not putting much effort into the task because everyone else in the group are working hard anyway. Geen (1991) suggests three reasons for why people loaf:
1 – output equity, people think everyone else is loafing so don’t want to be a ‘sucker’
2 – evaluation apprehension, they are hidden within the group so think no one may actually notice if they haven’t contributed
3 – Matching to standard, they don’t know how to behave as don’t have any standards to match
Social loafing could affect the way students learn because, well simply, they aren’t actually doing any work! Both points 1 and 2 could be helped by ensuring that teachers are supervising to make sure every child is working – possibly a work check list could be used so kids have to sign who has done what. To solve point 3, Goethals and Darley (1987) suggest including a clear performance standard so the group members know what standard to match.
What about the group members who do contribute? What are their reasons for working hard?
A study by Zaccaro (1984) revealed that some individuals actually exceeded their individual potential when they were put into groups. The psychology behind the people who ensure the work gets done is considered to be due to ‘social compensation’! This term is when people work harder in groups in order to compensate for the social loafers (William & karau, 1991). Another reason why individual’s may work harder in groups is purely because they don’t want to look bad as they like the people in the group and don’t want to let them down (Fielding & Hogg, 2000). This could benefit students because the social compensators will see their full potential and realise their true ability! It also improves children’s social skills as they learn that sometimes they will have to be responsible for the sake of others too.
Considering the way we act when put in groups – why do you think schools and education practises still encourage group work? Well group work in education is considered an effective method to motivate students to work hard, to develop their critical thinking, communication and decision-making skills (Centre for Teaching Excellence*). For schools, group work helps children learn how different people work and it teaches them how to compromise with others, how to deal with petty arguments as well as helping them make progress in the chosen study area (an article I found on the Gaurdian told me so!**). It could also be suggested that group work also gives children an idea of different types of personalities and also that sometimes you have to work harder in order to get a task complete. It may also encourage children to realise that they have to work hard in groups because if they don’t they will let everybody else down.
To conclude, despite the way some people will behave when doing group work; I think that group work should be encouraged in education; especially schools! As it teaches children how to cooperate with others and develops many skills for them. Also the more group work is encouraged, perhaps the less social-loafing will occur, especially if solutions are put in place to try and prevent social loafing (such as teacher supervision and clear standards to meet).
Comments and questions will be much appreciated 😀
Fielding, K. S., & Hogg, M. A. (2000). Working hard to achieve self-defining group goals: A social identity analysis. Zeitschrift fur Sozialpsychologie, 31(4), 191-203.
Geen, R. G. (1991). Social motivation. Annual review of psychology, 42(1), 377-399.
Goethals, G. R., & Darley, J. M. (1987). Social comparison theory: Self-evaluation and group life. Theories of group behavior, 21-47.
Latane, B., Williams, K., & Harkins, S. (1979). Many hands make light the work: The causes and consequences of social loafing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(6), 822.
Williams, K. D., & Karau, S. J. (1991). Social loafing and social compensation: The effects of expectations of co-worker performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(4), 570.
Zaccaro, S. J. (1984). Social Loafing The Role of Task Attractiveness.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 10(1), 99-106.
If you want to find out more or if you are too lazy to read this blog post (and managed to stumble across the video first) here is me presenting this post to my classmates at university. Please excuse me on this video as it was my first attempt I was a little nervous 😦 More to come in the later blog posts so hopefully that will improve 😀