Marissa Inzunza, Megan Stilson, Tracy Wagner "Patterns Within Social Dynamics"

Marissa Inzunza, Tracy Wagner, Megan Stilson
Instructor: Dr. Jeff Bloom
8 November 2011

Patterns Project: Social Groups

For our patterns project we observed the complex relationship of social interactions. In order to examine this pattern we decided to observe our own cohort. We were directly involved in this exploration because we are part of the community we were observing.

Within our classroom, there are specific social groups visible to the naked eye. No matter the circumstance, groups perpetually stay the same and form almost instantaneously. From an outside perspective, one could see the distinct social groups. Students conjugate in an unspoken manner. For example, when our class is prompted to do an activity which requires cooperative learning, there is no discussion on group placements. However, groups are instantly formed based on previous experiences and group success. In order to stay within a group, one must demonstrate their value to the group. Displaying strengths and ability to be a team member are essential to maintaining in a group. Students who do not achieve success are alienated from the group because only valuable workers are wanted within the groups. Groups in our classroom are based on being successful. “Success” in our classroom is defined as being responsible, working to achieve quality grades, being a team player, and showing up to class in a timely fashion. The idea of “success” is a primal instinct. In earlier times, “success” can be seen as survival. Past and present groups are needed to succeed in both life and the classroom.

There are several interactions among social patterns. Communication is the key to social interaction. Interactions occur within a whole group and within smaller groups. For example, with smaller groups, individuals feel more comfortable to state their opinions being that we separated in like-groups. We are attracted to individuals that hold similar values and work ethics to ourselves. However, the social dynamics are sufficiently changed when discussing topics as a whole.Interaction is reduced because of varying opinions making one feel vulnerable. Small groups provide comfort and safety, thus, become a greater source of interaction.

There are numerous different types of structures present within the small-group setting of our Cohort. Our classroom demonstrates the metapatterns of arrows, circles, and clusters. The arrow group in our classroom represents a hierarchal system. In this group there is a distinct leader and distinct followers. One person is clearly in lead and delegates task and responsibilities to other group members (see diagram below). This can relate to the Alpha/Beta principle. The alphas of the groups dominate social settings. They take control; failure is not an option and they are confident individuals. The leaders in our classroom demonstrate alpha qualities, being that they take initiative and make sure things running smoothly. On the other hand, betas are seen in group settings. Betas take a back-seat approach and let others take the lead. Additionally, they lack power in the group. The other members of the groups present beta qualities because they wait for someone to give instructions. In using the alpha/beta principle you can understand how the arrows metapattern works. All power is flowing one way presenting a hierarchal system.

Another social structure is social circles. In this setting, power is distributed equally.Everyones’ opinions are shared among the group. All ideas are seen as equal, not lesser or greater in importance than others. All group members take on the same amount of responsibility. Information is spread equal amongst the group members. (See depiction below of a social circle.)

Clusters are another pattern seen in group settings. Clusters are defined as having a common core with one or more people as the drawing force. Cluster cores attract outliers. In our classroom, outliers are individuals who do not seek groups unless necessary. They tend to stay as an individual wandering amongst the classroom seating arrangements and only become a group member when required. This social setting occurs when individuals are mandated to form groups to be successful. (The diagram below depicts a cluster, in which their is a strong center force. Outliers are attracted to the core.)

The metapatterns previously presented unite to form a classroom holarchie. In small groups we break up in various ways. However, we are still webbed together as a whole group. Relationships are intertwined and every student in the class connected, although may have a tighter bond with only a few select classroom members. (The diagram below depicts all the social circles coming together to form a whole classroom community.)

Shared meanings relate into everyday life. They are carried out in all forms of life. For example, they can be seen in communities, neighborhoods, and religious associations. Our society demonstrates numerous social metapatterns. The community can be viewed as a holarchie, in which all citizens participate and are grouped together. However, when you look deeper, citizens are divided into neighbors and so forth. Within a neighborhood, certain families may share a closer bond with some than others. This closeness may be seen as an arrow, circle, or cluster system. Our classroom depicts this real-life model. We break up into groups that are seen in everyday life. Within our classroom, our social structures are so defined that we carry them throughout the day. Even in different settings, our groups are still visible. For example, when we relocate to a different classroom, we still carry on a similar seating arrangement as seen in the previous class. The context of science is relevant to our findings because we had to observe our surroundings. We had to investigate and critically analyze the relationships within the class. Deconstructing our social groupings allowed us to label each group with a specific metapattern. (The diagram below is a web. It depicts all the students being intertwined to be seen as a hole, and having connections with everyone in the class.)

We plan on teaching this lesson by having students filling out a questionnaire which includes these questions: “Who is the leader?”, “Who would you pick to hang out with on the weekend?” and “Who do you trust with a group assignment?”. After the questionnaire has been given out we would then collect the data and create a sociogram. The sociogram will expose the various types of social structures within their classroom. They will tell us how the students view one another, and what type of metapattern they partake in. Completing a sociogram allows students to obtain a personal connection to the material and better understand social metapatterns in their everyday life.
(Depiction of what one sociogram might look like. The diagram shows connections being made \amongst the various group members, and can depict the various metapatterns.)

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