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Title: The Emergence of Group Dynamics from Contextualised Social Processes: A Complexity-Oriented Grounded-Theory Approach
Contributor(s): Wolodko, Keith Richard (author); Cooksey, Ray W  (supervisor); Sheridan, Alison J (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 2018
Copyright Date: 2017
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: A formal group, within a University, is typically created to accomplish work goals through on-going coordination, combination, and integration of member resources. Group behaviour emerges from the confluence of individual and social forces and behaviours enacted to pursue desired goals. Interactions between group members in context create patterns of group processes and behaviours, and how these patterns change over time creates group dynamics. However, group dynamics do not simply reflect intra-group processes; they also reflect influences that arise from larger contexts within which the group is embedded. Group behaviour can, therefore, be argued to reflect emergent self-organisation, sensitivity to time and initial conditions, and causal ambiguity, properties associated with complex, dynamic and adaptive systems. Much of the research into group dynamics and behaviour (especially experimental social psychology research employing a positivist reductionist theoretical perspective) has tended not to look at groups through such a complexity lens. The research reported in this thesis was intended to push into this frontier. The fundamental question addressed in this thesis is: 'What occurs during group interactions associated with the emergence and maintenance of different types of group dynamics and how do those dynamics tend to unfold over time?' I argue in this thesis that a deep and contextual understanding of the complexity of group dynamics can be achieved using an interpretivist/constructivist perspective coupled with a grounded theory approach employing methodologies that permit the deeper exploration of the meaning of individual as well as collective group behaviours. To achieve the depth of learning needed in this research, I focused on a single long-standing group, a committee that existed within a larger university. I gathered qualitative data using three distinct data gathering strategies: (1) participant observation of the group at its regular monthly meetings over a 12- month period; (2) semi-structured interviews with current and former individual group members; and (3) the review of historical documents (e.g., minutes of meetings, discussion papers) relevant to the group's initial genesis and evolution over the time period prior to this research as well as my own field notes amassed over the duration of the study. I employed MAXQDA 11 Plus to support my analyses of the qualitative data amassed using these three strategies and to aid the development of grounded theory that accounted for the group's contextual dynamics. The results of this study revealed that when the focal group was addressing routine group tasks, systematic and consistent patterns of behaviour were observed. However, when the group was exposed to or perceived an internal or external shock, some interesting and unexpected emergent patterns of behaviour were observed. These behaviours could be traced to the desire for a select few members to maintain the historically based group identity, function, and direction. This maintenance process was accomplished through the application of varying types of power to offset possible bifurcation. For example, one class of such behaviours focused on 'leadership hijacking', where control over the group's consideration of an issue was taken over by a person who was not the discussion leader but for whom that issue was 'hot' and perceived to be strongly threatening. Of the number of external shocks observed, the interplay between the university's and other larger contextual agendas and the group's agenda was visible and often vigorous. This type of shock caused confrontation and escalation behaviours to emerge with the goal, once again, to maintain the historically based group identity and agenda. The addition of data gathered from semi-structured interviews with current and former group members and the review of historical documents relevant to the group provided further evidence relevant to how members strived to maintain the historically based group agenda through the application of their unique brand of group dynamics. In some cases, depending upon the issue at hand, the maintenance of this historically based group agenda centred upon one group member and, in other cases, involved the creation of shorter- and longer-term coalitions. Thus, an understanding of the dynamics of interaction within this group was achieved through close examination of the various contexts within which the group was embedded as well as the contexts of the individual group members. The results support the need to employ a complex adaptive systems perspective when trying to unpack group dynamics as they play out in real time. This research also reinforces the value of adopting an interpretivist perspective to enhance the depth of this learning.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Field of Research Codes: 159999 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services not elsewhere classified
Rights Statement: Copyright 2017 - Keith Richard Wolodko
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
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Appears in Collections:Thesis Doctoral
UNE Business School

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