Thursday, July 15, 2010

Negative Individual Effects on Groups and What WE can do about it

Last Monday the GTC met to discuss how individuals can affect group dynamics using Felps et al's (2006, see full citation below) paper on bad apple individuals. Felps et al use the bad apple analogy in reference to the old saying, "all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the barrel."

As a group we discussed how three types of negative individuals - generically called slackers, downers, and jerks - can affect group dynamics, productivity, and learning ability. There was some discussion on whether negative individuals could actually have a strong effect, which types of negative people have the largest effect, what the group as a whole can do in response, and how one positive person can balance negative individuals. We also identified one method, as teachers, that we could use to ensure our students are fairly graded in groups. That is to allow group members to evaluate each other and to take those evaluations into consideration during our assignments of grades.

Mara Evans has had experience using group member evaluations and did notice that it was beneficial. The class she taught then a step further and allowed students to choose to be graded as a group or individually. Most students chose to be graded as a group, but the "non-bad apple" members of dysfunctional groups benefited from having their grades removed from bad apple grads.


W. Felps, T. Mitchell, E. Byington, How, When, and Why Bad Apples Spoil the Barrel: Negative Group Members and Dysfunctional Groups. Research in Organizational Behavior 27, 175 (2006).
http://openwetware.org/images/a/a5/Final_BA_ROB.pdf

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