Two major issues that are coming to the fore in the case study group work process are communication and participation. I stole my title from the Firefly character Mal Reynolds as my strategy in this particular case study session was to communicate clearly to my group my paticipation parameters – basically informing them “I aim to misbehave.” Due to my commitments in my other subject (assessment due the Monday of the case study session week) and work (Tuesday through Thursday with little room for Uni on those days) I was only able to participate in this session marginally before the Friday on which the response was due. I took the initiative to share my constraints with the group as soon as the case study email was released. This provided a space for another group member to step forward and take the initiative to facilitate the work for this session. Stepping back in this way was a bit difficult for me and shone a light on how much I like to have control over a process in which I am emotionally invested.
I have built a network of fellow students as I have progressed through this course. Some have been there through the bulk of my journey (save pursuing our own side paths in terms of elective courses) and some have only traveled alongside me for a subject or two. One of my support group networks is a collection of students going through ETL504 this session with me. We are in different case study groups, for the most part, so I have a window onto experiences other than my own.
This Friday, as the case study deadline loomed, a fierce discussion brewed regarding levels of participation in groups. Some groups, like mine, were lucky enough to have members who all pitched in and who found ways to communicate with each other through the prescribed media. Others have been plagued with uncommunicative and non-participatory members. This has caused significant frustration and feelings of inequity in the process and even a questioning of the efficacy of this experience as a learning tool.
This discussion led me to think about the different ways people communicate within a school or team structure. As a part-time staff member in a relatively isolated area of my school’s campus, I depend on e-mail to communicate my thoughts and information to colleagues when I think of them. Many of my colleagues, however, prefer face-to-face communication. It is quite frustrating to send out an email on Thursday evening that does not get a reply until the recipient happens to run into you at the Thursday morning organisational meeting the following week. A good leader and manager needs to be aware of and use methods and systems of communication that are not merely effective in theory and popular in the literature but that are actually effective in their real-life context. How exactly to leverage that insight and apply it to my University and work contexts may need some more reflection. And “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will…” go and do some more of that.