Do you know the types of group that you join? Are they primary
or secondary groups? As a guide, a primary group is where the
relationships within the group are intimate, personal, and
heart-felt. On the other hand, a secondary group entails
relationships that are not intimate or impersonal.
There are actually many ways in which you can classify groups
but in this topic, we will be studying the types of small group
communication according to Cragan and Wright (1999).
~Descriptive groups are formed on the basis of work that
can be done individually and by groups.
~ Prescriptive groups are classified according to the
procedures that should be followed in achieving
DECISION MAKING GROUP
Decision-making groups are groups that are
specifically formed for the purpose of making
decisions that would steer them toward their goals. In
decision-making groups, the best resolutions are
chosen from a range of alternatives gathered through
procedural group discussions.
An example of such a group is a policy-making group
that discusses ways of implementing policies. A
policy-making group is important because it
determines the direction of an organization or
Social groups are usually involved in activities
related to the development and welfare of a society.
This means that they include groups that uphold
basic human rights and protect the interests of the
Examples are Village Development Committees,
which are meant to increase the quality of life of
Another example of social groups is the National
Cancer Council, which is aimed at helping cancer
patients undergo treatment and also for the
development of cancer treatment facilities.
Study groups, on the other hand, are focused on
achieving excellence in education. Differently
stated, this type of group is closely associated with
high educational performance.
This is a result of in-group discussions that help
boost students' memory, communication skills,
The practice of having study groups normally
starts in secondary schools but study groups are
usually more directed and effective in higher
learning institutions, where group members have
a broader knowledge base, are more matured, and
have better communication skills.
Improving the quality and productivity of
products and services would be one of the
objectives of an organization.
Teamwork is one of the commonly used strategies
in achieving that objective. We refer to such
teams as work groups. Work groups such as
Quality Control Groups (QCGs) are one example
of groups that can realize an organization's
Therefore, we can say that work groups are
groups that are established for the purpose of
achieving specific targets, objectives, or mission
Having looked at the types of descriptive groups,
let us now turn to prescriptive groups.
Colloquiums are usually aimed at
solving specific problems and they
involve specific audiences as well.
For instance, a colloquium on youth
problems will include youth experts
and the youths as the audience. In a
session, there will be about three to six
experts and a chairperson conducts the
Discussions in colloquiums are
informal because the audiences are
given a chance to directly interact with
So, both parties are actively involved in
the discussions without any limitation.
The main reason for conducting
forums is to get opinions from
both experts and audiences.
In this sense, forums are
characterized as more open
because those in the audience
are given the chance to give
their comments and opinions
and also ask questions.
An example of a forum is the
Forum Perdana Hal Ehwal
Islam, which is aired on TV1
every Thursday night.
Similar to panels, forums also
have specific procedures
monitored by a chairperson and
a session usually lasts for about
one to one and a half-hour.
This group format involves
large audiences. The purpose of
this format is to provide
information on certain topics.
Those involved in this group
format include presenters of
working papers, debaters,
chairpersons, session writer
(similar to minute taker), and
Unlike the other prescriptive
groups mentioned earlier,
there is no specific time frame
for this type of groups. The
length of a session depends on
the time taken to present all of
Working papers are presented
in a formal manner and it is
conducted by a chairperson.
Usually, presentations of
working papers will lead to
some resolutions. The
publishing of proceedings is
also a result of symposiums
Panels are small groups that
discuss current issues with the
intention of instilling awareness
among the audiences about the
existence and implications of
A panel session would consist of
about four to eight main
speakers, a chairman, and an
Usually, panel members, who
are the main speakers, are given
approximately one to one and a
half-hour to comment on the
In panel discussions, there are
specific procedures to be
followed, which are controlled
by the chairman.
In this world, we live in a
community, where every one of us is
interdependent. To achieve personal
or group objectives or goals, we need
to associate ourselves with others.
That means we need to be in a
group or groups. Subsequently, we
must know the types of groups that
we are in. This means that we
should know the different types of
This knowledge will influence our
communication in the different
groups because every type of group
has a different approach to
communication. The bottom line is
we should be in those groups that
will help us get to our objectives.
In this network, the leader sits in the
middle of the group with the group
members surrounding him or her. The
leader normally makes decisions single-
handedly, and then, informs others. So,
the interaction is formal. The
information is transferred in the shortest
time and with high accuracy since it
comes straight from the source without
However, group members may feel
dissatisfied with this kind of
communication because it is a one-
person decision-making process thus the
decision may not necessarily be the best.
This network is effective in simple
situations, where there need not be a
collaboration of ideas for a decision to be
An example is the communication
between an executive manager in a head
office and the heads of the company's
In the circle network, group members
interact with about four other people in
the group, two on the left and two on
the right of them.
So, members have equal opportunities
to communicate and there is no specific
leader in charge. Therefore, this kind of
communication pattern usually exists in
a group, where the opinions of every
member are taken into account and are
In such a situation, we can see that the
relationships among members are
informal with such high team spirit and
However, because information can go
many ways, its flow or transfer may be
slow and it may not be accurate.
The linear communication network does
not normally involve all group members.
Members usually only interact with
those sitting next to them.
So, a person may only communicate
with just another person. Therefore,
there is usually none or very weak
leadership in this situation. Apart from
that, information flow is quick with
However, the quality of communication
is low and there may be dissatisfaction
among members because they seldom
meet with other members and they only
interact with just one or two other
This pattern of communication most
probably exists in conservative
In the star network, all members are
actively interacting with each other. The
platform of communication is open to all.
The leader usually communicates with
each member to arrive at decisions or
The amount of information gathered is
Although group members may be happy
that their opinions are taken into account
in the decision-making process, it is a slow
process and the information shared will
most probably be of medium accuracy.
Therefore, this network is most effective in
Therefore we see that there are
various communication patterns
that can be used in small groups.
To communicate effectively,
therefore, we need to identify the
network pattern that suits our
situation the most.
However, studies have shown that
the most common
communication patterns used in
small groups are the wheel and
star networks. This is because
group involvement and
contribution in these two
networks is optimal.
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