1. Characteristics of a group

1.6 Participation

The degree of participation in a group is dependent to a large extent on its size and on the physical environment. The pattern of interaction may also vary. For instance, it may take the form of a one-way "mini" lecture by the leader or tutor, or be a two-way question-and-answer format, again directed by the tutor. In some cases, comments may be channelled through a member, not officially the leader, because of his or her dominant role outside the group, and in others a small clique may set up an interaction to the exclusion of the rest of the members. As a general rule communication is directed upwards in the status hierarchy and the upward communication tends to be more positive than that directed downwards. Consequently, the tutor may receive more rosy information than is appropriate: an important fact to remember in conducting an evaluation of the group or the tutor.

Patterns of interaction in a group may be consistent over time or may vary. They can certainly be changed through the structuring of discussion with subgroups or by introducing helpful ground rules. The more widespread the participation in discussion, the better will be the interest and involvement.

Questions to ask about participation:

  • Did everyone appear involved, either verbally or nonverbally?
  • Were quieter students encouraged to participate? How?
  • To whom were questions usually addressed: the whole group, the tutor, particular members o For what proportion of time did the tutor talk?
  • If a chart of the participation pattern is drawn, how does it look? (see Fig 2)

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