Re: group construing

Brian Gaines (
Thu, 16 May 1996 09:47:10 -0700

Bill Ramsay writes

>I was at that time using 'construing teachers' as an exercise in PCP that
>students could carry out as an assignment for the course. (Interestingly,
>over a period of several years, a construct called something like 'tries to
>teach you - doesn't try to teach you' emerged repeatedly as important from
>pupils' points of view. Note the 'tries' - you don't have to be good at
>it!.) During a meeting of the class in which I was introducing the 'grid
>method a group of 6 or 7 of the students (mature students, by the way) quite
>spontaneously adapted the exercise to produce, first of all, a set of agreed
>constructs. So far, not so much different from some grid elicitation
>procedures. However, they then went on to produce _agreed_ ratings for
>members of the Technical Education Department as teachers and recorded these
>on a single group 'grid.
>I was too busy coping with the less-organised to be party to the decision or
>the discussion that followed, which I much regret now. The interesting part
>is that my own reading of their grid was such that I would have filled in an
>exchange grid very similarly (Ethics forbade, of course). We both - the
>group and myself - had considerable knowledge of the elements, theirs
>intensive, mine extensive over a period of years.
>I don't think this is an example of group construing in the sense that it's
>been discussed, but I'd be interested in your views on the validity of the
>process or even just on what's going on here. I've never followed it up,
>I'm afraid.

We've found that having a group work together on a single grid as you
describe can be very effective. Constructs are suggested by individuals
but the group argues over their interpretation. A rating of an element
suggested by one individual often evokes surprise in other even when there
appears to have been a consensus over the interpretation of the construct.

The process can be highly instructive, particularly for a group construing
what is regarded as 'common' or 'objective' knowledge where lack of
a common consensus is unexpected to the group members.

In these situations groups can reach a consensus on a common use of
terminology even if it is not that of any individual. I don't know of
any studies on how long such consensus persists.

However, there is often no consensus ahead of this process, indicating
that groups seem to be able to work together effectively without a
common system of constructs. This is not unreasonable when you examine
a system of cooperating agents in abstract -- a common assumption of
intent to collabaorate -- a rough division into tasks -- undertaking
a task that no-one else is doing -- synchronizing activities by perceiving
the state of others tasks -- etc -- much can be done without any
communication except the perception of others activities.