COM 520 Small Group Communication

Spring, 2022


Instructor: Dr. Marcia D. Dixson
Office hours: T 4:00 - 5:30 pm by appointment
Office: KT 176
Phone: 481-6558 Email:


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Welcome to COM 520 Small Group Communication! This semester is about giving you many "lenses" in terms of theoretical perspectives and methods for observation of group functioning. Your exploration of group processes should always consider individual as well as group level behaviors which includes your own group communication. I believe my job is to facilitate your learning; to provide you with a variety of opportunities to learn the content of this course as well as to be more aware of your own group communication strengths and weaknesses. To that end, I am always 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 via email or in a meeting. My services as a facilitator and guide come with the tuition you paid for the course, please do not be shy about using them! Just so you know, I generally answer email within 24 hours. I do not answer email in the evenings or between 2:00 pm Friday and Monday morning.

Course objectives.

You will be able to:

1) To be able to explain the foundational group communication theories
2) To be able to observe, analyze, and evaluate small group communication using a theoretical lens
3) To recognize the influence of modality of communication on group communication.
4) To increase self-awareness of your own group communication skills

Course textbook: No textbook - readings available in Brightspace


Course requirements:

Percent of grade
Individual assignments 60%  
5 Who you are (Obj 4)
5 Individual self-analysis (Obj 4)
20 Four Theories/Model Discussion and other class participation (Obj 1 & 2)
5 CITI training
15 Theory evaluation (Obj 2)
10 Channel exercise report (Obj 3)
Group assignments 40%  
5 Research Project Plan (Obj 4)
10 Literature Review w/rationale and hypotheses (Obj 1, 2 & 4)
5 Methods write-up (Obj 1, 2 & 4)
5 Research presentation (Obj 1, 2 & 4)
15 Research paper (Obj 1, 2 & 4)



Course policies -non-negotiable

Helpful places on campus:

Description of major assignments

Individual assignments: 60%

Who you are: The first and second nights of class we will do some icebreaker, get to know you, and affiliation exercises - this is an opportunity to get to know your peers as well as consider ways to build group cohesion early in the group life cycle - team building is a very useful skill to cultivate!

Individual self-analysis: During the second class you will complete several scales to identify some aspects of your preferences that affect how you work in groups. From those results and your own experiences, write a one page paper answering the questions: 1) What strengths do you bring to group work? 2) What areas do you hope to strengthen this semester?

CITI Training: Bring/send a copy of your certificate indicating completion of the Social Behavioral Research for Investigators and Key Personnel Learner Group course

Four Theory/Model and Other Class Discussions: These discussions are your introduction and primary learning about the foundational theories/models in group communication. You are expected to follow the three Ps: be Present, be Prepared (do the reading and prep discussion question answers in advance), Participate.

Theory evaluation. Choose one of the theories/models discussed in the readings. Create a project that demonstrates your

Channel exercise report. This paper requires two steps: First, three discussions with three modalities:1) a FTF (in class) discusson, 2) a synchronous online discussion via Zoom (during class time) and3) a separate discussion via the discussion forum in Brightspace to solve different but similar types of problems as a group. Then, using participant observation methods (participate and try to observe at the same time), choose EITHER a particular theoretical lens OR a specific observational method (Bales Interaction Process Analysis, Competent communicator, or SYMLOG) to analyze, compare and evaluate the channel of communication for solving problems in groups. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each channel of communication for this type of process? If you were planning group work, how would you choose the modality (assuming all are a practical option)?

Group assignments 40% Social science research example and explanation

Research project plan: As a group, create a Gantt (here's how to do so in Excel) or other type of chart detailing the tasks your group needs to accomplish, who will accomplish them, and by when in order to complete a successful research project. The plan should distribute the workload fairly allowing you to both use the strengths of the team and use the project for individuals to grow.

Research project literature review: Synthesize the relevant literature given the context you wish to study and the theoretical perspective(s) you wish to use. A literature review is an argument that supports the specific rationale for your H or RQ. You should include 15-20 credible sources, 7-10 pages.

Research project methods write-up: Writing as if you have completed the study (which you will), include enough detail in your methods section that someone else could repeat your study. The methods section will vary from one to four pages depending on the method you choose.

Research presentation: A 10-12 minute presentation that clearly delineates why this study is important (how does it contribute to general knowledge, why does it matter?), the rationale for you RQ/H, the method you used, the results you found, and the significance of your findings.

Research paper:An 18-25 page social science research paper with all the relevant sections fully developed: Introduction/Statement of the Problem, Literature review/rationale for H/RQ, Methods, Results, Discussion with limitations and implications, Conclusion. Research paper and presentation rubric

Tentative Agenda


11 Orientation; introductions; course policy decisions, oh, and Saving the World! :)

18 Research methods; self-analysis - remember to bring your object or single sheet "illustration" of who you are :).

25Symbolic Convergence Theory


1 Functional Approach; Individual analysis assignment due

8 Structuration Theory

15 Distributed Leadership Model

22 Conflict management in groups; Create initial research project plan


1 Group communication updates theories chapter; CITI training due; Initial research project plan due: Theory, context, method

8 Spring Break

15 Theory evaluation projects due; Start channel exercise

22 Lit review drafts due for workshopping in class -create shared doc if you haven't alredy

29 Channel exercise due; Methods Workshop


5 Literature Review Due; Start data gathering

12 Check-in

19 Methods write-up due; Check-in regarding data analysis

26 Final check-in


3 5:45 pm Research presentations and paper due