[Air-l] Listserv research

Alexander Kuskis alex.kuskis at netscape.ca
Fri Sep 22 09:22:26 PDT 2006

Dear Rosanna,
Palloff & Pratt did nothing of the kind. They simply adopted Tuckman's
ideas, which are well known in small group studies, and applied them
without qualification to the online medium. Tuckman's research on small
group formation is probably more or less correct in broad strokes for
F2F groups, but it is not applicable without modification to online
groups. Dr. Palloff admitted as much to me in an online seminar a few
years ago. Let me quote something I have written on this topic, with 
apologies for the length.........Alex Kuskis

Perhaps the most famous of the sequential stage theories of group
development was proposed by Tuckman in 1965; he stated that groups
evolve through four stages, which he labeled: Forming, Storming, Norming
and Performing (Tuckman, 1965).  His research was based on studies of
therapy groups, human relations training groups, laboratory-task groups,
and natural groups. A fifth and final stage – Adjourning – was added by
him later (Tuckman, 1977).

The limitation of Tuckman’s study, according to (Kass, 1996), is that
group therapy settings were over-represented, while other types of
groups, such as laboratory-task groups and natural groups were
under-represented. The original framework was first abstracted from the
over-represented group therapy studies, then applied to human relations
training groups, and still later to laboratory-task and natural groups.
Still, it is remarkable that Tuckman’s 5-stage model coincides with the
models of Lacoursiére, Fisher, and Tubbs to a remarkable degree, and as
such, the 4 models tend to support each other.

Despite the fact that the other three models confirm Tuckman’s to a
considerable degree, Tuckman’s theory must still be used with caution,
if applied to other types of groups, and especially to learning
communities, whether face-to-face or virtual. Kass (1996) cautions that:

While [Tuckman’s] suggested sequence and perceptions of trends appeared 
to hold under varied conditions of composition, size, duration and
focus, and while it would seem to stand the test of common sense,
generalizations must perforce be limited to the fact that what has been
put forth is mainly delineated from research dealing with group therapy
settings. (p. 51) 

Unfortunately, some later writers [Palloff & Pratt] on virtual teams and
communities have not always exercised such caution, and have accepted
Tuckman’s 5-stages at face value and applied them uncritically, stating
that online communities evolve through Tuckman’s 5 stages.  

Kass, R. (1996). Theories of small group development. Montreal: The
Centre for 
	Human Relations & Community Studies, Concordia University.

Tuckman, B.W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups.
	Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399.

Tuckman, B.W., & Jensen, M.A. (1977). Stages of small group development
	Group and Organization Studies, 2, 419-427.

Alex Kuskis, PhD
Adjunct Professor
MA Progam in Communication & Leadership
School of Professional Studies
Gonzaga University
"Learning a living" - Marshall McLuhan

----- Chris,

You asked:
"Does Tuckman have anything new that you can site? How about Pallof &

Pallof and Pratt are original thinkers. What they wrote is
in practice as well as in theory. For one because they have studied a
group of learners as opposed to lab-rat ones. For two they have studied
group from within and yet they haven't used ethnography. Finally,
their findings go completely against the conventional wisdom which has
origins into the cues-filtered out approach (and similar deterministic
stands, even though socially or psychologically oriented).

They didn't quite frame it in this way (and it's a pity), but what they
was action learning.

Rosanna Tarsiero

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