Power and Status with Small Groups: An Analysis of Students' Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior and Responses to One Another

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Title: Power and Status with Small Groups: An Analysis of Students' Verbal and Nonverbal Behavior and Responses to One Another
Author: Morris, Lynnae Carol
Advisors: William Grant, Committee Member
Gail Jones, Committee Member
John Park, Committee Member
Eric Wiebe, Committee Co-Chair
Glenda Carter, Committee Co-Chair
Abstract: The purpose of this research has been to determine the influence of verbal and nonverbal behavior on power and status within small groups. The interactions which took place within five small groups of students in a middle school spatial reasoning elective were analyzed. Verbal responses to requests for help were analyzed using sequential analysis software. Results indicated that the identity of the child asking a question or requesting help in some form or another is a better predictor of whether he⁄she will receive help than the type of questions he⁄she asks. Nonverbal behavior was analyzed for social gestures, body language, and shifts in possession of tools. Each nonverbal act was coded as either "positive" (encouraging participation) or "negative" (discouraging participation); and, the researchers found that in groups in which there was unequal participation and less "help" provided among peers (according to the verbal analysis results) there tended to be more "negative" nonverbal behavior demonstrated than in groups in which "shared talk time" and "helping behavior" were common characteristics of the norm. The combined results from the analyses of the verbal and nonverbal behavior of students within small groups were then reviewed through the conflict, power, status perspective of small group interactions in order to determine some common characteristics of high functioning (collaborative) and low functioning (non-collaborative) groups. Some common characteristics of the higher functioning groups include: few instances of conflict, shared "talk time" and decision making, inclusive leadership, frequent use of encouraging social gestures and body language, and more sharing of tools than seizing; while, some shared traits among the lower functioning groups include: frequent occurrences of interpersonal conflict, a focus on process (rather than content), persuasive or alienating leadership, unequal participation and power, frequent use of discouraging social gestures and body language, and more seizing of tools than sharing. While "functionality" was easily defined, labeling groups according to this characteristic proved to be a more difficult task. Although there was clearly a "highest functioning" and a "lowest functioning" group among the five, the other three groups fell somewhere in between these two, along a continuum (dependent upon the day).
Date: 2007-12-07
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Science Education
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/3268

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