Title page for ETD etd-09142012-154457

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Cooper, Jean Henry
Email jeanhenrycooper@gmail.com
URN etd-09142012-154457
Document Title The forces involved in being a member of a small group
Degree PhD
Department Human Resource Management
Advisor Name Title
Prof J S Basson Supervisor
  • qualitative research
  • group membership
  • group dynamics
  • grounded theory
  • leadership
Date 2012-09-05
Availability unrestricted
There is a general lack of in-depth research into what it means (and takes) to be a member of a small group. Firstly, research is often focused on leadership rather than on membership and, secondly, empirical research tends to focus on studying group outcomes rather than group process. The purpose of this research was to explore the forces involved in being a member of a small group and to develop a research method for doing so. A post foundational philosophical stance was adopted in terms of which the need both for discovering universal truths as well as gaining in-depth understanding within context, was pursued. A constructivist grounded theory design was adapted by developing a theoretical lens with which to facilitate the coding and analysis of the data. This theoretical lens was based on an integration of Kurt Lewinís field theory; Wilfred Bionís psychoanalytic group-as-a-whole approach; S.H. Foulkesís group analytic approach and Yvonne Agazarianís theory of living human systems. The data consisted of transcribed video material of ten 90-minute sessions conducted with a training group of 9 members; written reflections by the group members on their group experience as well as field notes taken by the researcher during the training group sessions. Through the application of the theoretical lens to the data, member behaviour was coded both deductively and inductively, thus allowing the data to speak for itself whilst maintaining a rigorous analytical structure. The result of this exploration was an emerging field theory of group membership which postulates the group member as existing within a field of forces (both pro- and anti-group) operating between the triangular Ďpolaritiesí of belonging, individuality and task. The theoretical and practical implications of this field theory are discussed in terms of their relevance to both grounded theory research methodology and group psychology. Finally, it is shown how this research can be used as a foundation from which to conduct a multitude of future studies into group processes from the perspective of the group member.

© 2012 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Cooper, JH 2012, The forces involved in being a member of a small group, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-09142012-154457 / >


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