Communication & Cooperation: What happens when the group / team is too large or too small?

What is the "right" size?

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2005

14 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

Illustration listing

1. Introduction

2. Characterisation of groups

3. Analysis of different group sizes
3.1. Group participants: 1-3
3.2. Group participants: 4-8
3.3. Group participants: 12-150

4. Small Group Working
4.1. Use small groups to promote interaction within the class as a whole
4.2. Use small groups for syndicate discussions of questions or cases
4.3. Use small groups for substantial project work

5. Summary and Conclusions


Internet listing

Illustration listing

Abb. 1: Factors affecting the group size

1. Introduction

The size of a group is a topic with which we each day is unconsciously occupied. If we rise e.g. after a long working day into the overcrowded bus home, then is fast conscious to us: the group is too large. If we cannot master our tasks on the job punctually, we wish ourselves reinforcement. Everyone is each day in a multiplicity of groups: Family, friends, teammate etc. nevertheless: Does it really concern thereby groups? With this question I would like to deal in chapter 2 more in greater detail. There one describes, by which components a group is characterized. Thereupon become in the 3. chapter different group sizes formally and during the process more exactly regarded. All these scenarios suggests that the group has emergent properties which go beyond the individuals who comprise it.

Starting from chapter 4 I will be occupied further with the work with smaller groups. The data resulting from it can be used then likewise for the work with larger group - by the organization by sub-groups. At first we will regard, how to use small groups to promote interaction within the class as a whole. This chapter should be an assistance for understanding group phenomena and group processes. Beyond that suggestions given for the line of the group. Finally the also following phenomena are supplemented: how to use groups to syndicate discussions of questions or cases and how to use groups for substential project work. In the last chapter I give a summary and a view to the treated topic.

2. Characterisation of groups

In order to create a basis for the further remarks, in this chapter describes, which characteristics are connected with the term group:

-a collection of people
-in each others presence (I am leaving aside virtual groups and sociologically defined reference groups here)
-who are aware of each other
-and who interact with each other (the collection of people on a bus, or in a doctor's waiting room, may simply be regarded as a collection of individuals — or a set of small, dyadic or triadic, groups — for most purposes and under normal circumstances)

As the following illustration shows, the individual group size depends on many factors. Which meaning has the respective number of group members, becomes in the 3. chapter clearly.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Abb. 1: Factors affecting the group size

3. Analysis of different group sizes

3.1. Group participants: 1-3

Can you have a group of one? Not formally, but in process terms the question raises a number of issues which are worth thinking about:

-You can have a sub-group of one: and the sub-group (that one individual) takes his identity as much from his context within the group as from his individual personality
-You can have one person who represents a group, either formally or informally, perhaps in her own eyes, perhaps more in the eyes of other people (as when someone is stereotyped, or "tarred with the same brush"), or is wearing a uniform or badge of an organisation
-You can have one person remaining from a group which has fragmented, left "holding the baby" as it were

A group consisting of 2 persons is very often represented in the everyday life. The individual group sizes are regarded formally in each case and during the group process:


- potential for unanimity or equal disagreement
- each person potentially has 50% of the "air-time"
- very vulnerable to loss and addition


- the mating group with potential for very strong feelings
- the irreducible minimum for emergence of any group properties
- power becomes an issue
- polarisation and projection are possible

A group of 3:

- potential for unanimity or majority-minority splits or fragmentation
- aach person potentially has 33% of the "air-time"
- very vulnerable to loss and addition
- now the group is getting more interesting

3.2. Group participants: 4-8

A group of 4:


- potential for unanimity, equal splits or three-versus-one splits
- each member could have 25% of air-time
- slightly less vulnerable


- variety makes complete fragmentation less likely
- this is probably the optimum size for small syndicate or "buzz" groups
- there is sufficient variety in the group to reap the benefits of group working, but it is not large enough for anyone to hide
- sub-groupings of any substantial duration are possible, but not very likely

Groups with 5-6 participants:


- less change this time, except that with five members you can only have equal splits if someone is not counted or abstains
- the possibility of four- or five-versus-one splits makes group pressure more potent
- air-time now down to 20%, which is low, considering the process issues of participation levels.


- can be used for exercises as above, but roles may be more discrete and are slightly more likely to get "fixed"
- either bring in a formal — if lightweight — structure, such as suggesting a chairperson, or use when the group is to act as a team with predetermined roles


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Communication & Cooperation: What happens when the group / team is too large or too small?
What is the "right" size?
University of Applied Management
Durchführung eines konstruktivistischen Kommunikations- und Verhaltenstrainings
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Communication, Cooperation, What, Durchführung, Kommunikations-, Verhaltenstrainings
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Antje Felgentreu (Author), 2005, Communication & Cooperation: What happens when the group / team is too large or too small?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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