Effectiveness and Efficiency in Small Academic Peer Groups.
by Linda R. Hare & Kevin O'Neill
Small Group Research, Feb2000, Vol. 31 Issue 1, pp. 24-54.

Abstract:  What are the dynamics that affect a peer group, making one work more effectively and efficiently than another? What are some of the factors that influence peer group behavior to make some experiences positive and uplifting, whereas others are negative and frustrating? Using the case study method, the current research focuses on a small, academic peer group, during a particular period, in relation to group efficiency and effectiveness in achieving group goals.

The case study method incorporates semistructured and in-depth interviews, a data collection instrument, group focus interviews, descriptive statistics, historical accounts, and affinity clustering, and follows the guidelines of Yin (1994), Marshall and Rossman (1995), Brassard and Ritter (1994), and Ishikawa (1985). In the current study, all 14 members agreed to be interviewed, so the information base represents the entire study population. (The participant observer is not included as part of the group.)

Fourteen private 1-hour semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted using questions created by the authors following the protocols of Yin (1994) and Marshall and Rossman (1995) as a foundation for discussion. The questions were designed to elicit in-depth responses in three areas of interest we believed to be important in peer group dynamics: (a) shared vision, mission, and goals; (b) leadership and followership; and (d) organizational culture. In some questions, intent was influenced by the results of the Earley and Fletcher-Campbell study (1989) discussed earlier. These questions provided in-depth, qualitative information that was reflective of naturalistic methodologies.

Information from the individual interviews was treated in the following manner: Participant responses to the 25 questions were recorded on the instrument and checked with the participant for accuracy, coded for confidentiality, and condensed and extracted onto 3 inch x 5 inch cards. Responses were then analyzed for content using an affinity clustering technique, and 25 cluster themes were generated (see Table 1).(n1) Frequency of responses and elementary descriptive statistics were then applied to responses within each theme. Data collected in each of the 25 themes were grouped under the appropriate major archetypal heading (vision, leadership/ followership, or culture), and finally, themes that appeared to bridge more than one topic area were noted with an asterisk (see Table 1).