An introduction to group working & motivation

We had dreamed for years of an institution of independent scientists, working together in one of these backwoods (“blank spaces on the map of science”), not as subordinates of some great executive officer, but joined by the desire, indeed by the spiritual necessity, to understand the region as a whole, and to lend one another the strength of that understanding. Citation from: Wiener N. (1965). Cybernetics: or the control and communication in the animal and in the machine. MIT press, paperback edition.

In this site we provide some theoretical background about collaborative learning and place the topic in the context of Self-Determination Theory. From this theory, we came to develop a group self-evaluation procedure that we tested in secondary school and universities. We share our experiences with this evaluation procedure. Based on our findings, and those described in the literature, we advocate that educators make group evaluation part of collaborative learning projects. By doing so, social skills, which provide the essential added value of this type of education, also get a place in the assessment. What we describe for education also applies, in our eyes, for collaborative projects in work-organisations. In this context, learning and working are two of a kind.

1 Working together to learn

Working together, as a group, has important advantages over an individual approach. It provides an opportunity to lend each other the power of understanding, share burdens and uncertainties, learn from the skills of others, encourage and correct each other. If all goes well, there is also more room for a mastery approach and social recognition. Read more

2 Creating conditions that favor collaboration

Bringing people together around a task is a prerequisite but not a guarantee of collaborative effort. Even when group members know the rules of the game they do not always abide by them. Their use is determined by whether or not they have in interest in doing so. How can your steer groups to true collaborative effort? Read more

3 Self-Determination Theory, Autonomy, and Collaborative Attitude.

Numerous studies on team effectiveness deal with procedure-oriented interventions. These are primarily about goal-oriented issues such as group reflexivity and after-action reviews. Group reactive planning, an essential determinant of group effectiveness, depends on how procedure-oriented interventions are processed by group members. Read more

4 The potential loss of autonomy

Although group projects often provide a reasonable degree of autonomy that does not mean that group members experience it as such. A second important factor in the perception of autonomy is how the group functions. Dysfunction of one member suffices to take a lot of control away from the other members (a loss of autonomy). Read more

5 A group self-evalution protocol; setting the ground rules

Making group members aware of the added value and challenges of collaborative projects has a positive impact on the perception of the project. Involving group members in the creation of group functioning rules reinforces this awareness and provides the opportunity to evaluate group functioning against self-created rules. Read more.

6 A group self-evaluation protocol; rating member engagement

With the aim of ensuring a high degree of autonomy, we have developed a group self-evaluation protocol. It allows members to rate group member engagement. With this we hope that groups will operate with a greater degree of autonomous motivation so that a constructive dynamic can develop. Read more

7 Priming of autonomous motivation

Group self-evaluation affects group dynamics because it reveals individual contributions. This provides a sense of fairness and makes working together less threatening. We probed what it does to perceptions of autonomy: do members see more choice, have more enjoyment, and find the task more valuable? Read more.

8 Is it worth the effort?

Giving attention to the functioning of groups requires additional time, an element that many organizations (education, business, public services, etc) say they lack. That’s something the group members have to figure out for themselves. However, there is no book, no periodical, no school program, no business guide, that does not mention that working together is important. Read more.

9 Dealing with misaligned behaviour

What can you do if the group is not functioning well and expresses that it cannot correct it. This often comes up when a project has been running for some time. Starting over with new members is not always an option. There is also a chance that leaders or instructors may have too many of their own ideas about the functioning of the group and about the outcome of a project (and turn the task into “busy work”). Read more.

10 Students versus expert ground rules

What rules do students set, which ones are most frequent, and how do they relate to what experts report about behaviorally-anchored criteria that favor effective group working? We compare the occurrences of ground-rule themes of 810 student propositions with 85 expert propositions. Read more.