Syllabus and Schedule


Problem Solving in Teams and Groups

Summer 2021

Time and Location: Asynchronous Online

Instructors: Molly Han, M.A.

Email Address:

COMS 342 is taught fully online and asynchronously. We will not be meeting online or in person as a class at any point in Summer 2021, but I am available each Monday (1:00PM-4:00PM) and Wednesday (1:00PM-4:00PM) for zoom meetings during office hours. Please schedule an appointment by using Calendly or at
**Email is the best/fastest way to contact me.


Course Description and Goals

  1. Goals: The purpose of this course is to overview a variety of issues in small group communication. This course will examine small groups with an emphasis on how messages, talk, symbols, and discourse contribute to effective small groups. By the end of the semester you should be able to answer questions such as:
    1. What is a small group?
    2. When should individuals or groups be used to make decisions?
    3. How do groups form and develop? What kinds of stages do they go through?
    4. What kinds of strategies promote effective group decision making?
    5. How do issues of power and social influence affect group life?
    6. What leads to effective group leadership?
    7. How can conflict within small groups be managed constructively?


  1. Learning objectives: This course will focus on competent communication in small groups. To be a competent group communicator, you should: (a) develop an understanding of what constitutes competent communication within the small group context, and (b) be able to apply this in groups and teams. Thus, you should be able to:
    1. Execute a complex team project including idea development, project coordination, and creation of a lasting outcome.
    2. Develop social structures (often through messages) to manage common group issues and tensions effectively
    3. Identify and develop skills of leading and participating within small groups
    4. Implement appropriate conflict management techniques
    5. Construct messages to avoid common biases in groups and teams
    6. Generate constructive feedback for supervisors, peers, and subordinates
    7. Facilitate effective group discussions


  1. This course is also considered an upper-level course. One of the primary goals is to sharpen your written expression of important ideas and concepts and build your capacity for making strong critical arguments backed by evidence.

Course Format

This course content is administered entirely online.

  • 1) Online content may include short concept videos, Discussion Board Submissions, or Microsoft Teams participation.
  • 2) All assignments should be submitted through Blackboard. All submission directions and links are available in your weekly template in Blackboard.
  • 3) This is not a self-paced class. You will receive feedback from your instructor and peers as you build toward the content of your presentations and develop your project. We will also use Microsoft Teams to engage with each other online.

Required Text and Access

  1. The book is provided for free and can be accessed at
  2. Students will need to regularly (i.e., once every 48 hours or more often) access Blackboard (
  3. Students will need access to a sufficiently fast Internet connection to stream videos, download course materials, and video (i.e., Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout) with peers and the instructor.
  4. Students will need to regularly engage on the Microsoft Teams space for this course. Students are expected to use Teams to coordinate, meet, create and share documents, and generally collaborate. The Teams space is at: 


Course Policies

  • We will respect one another in this course. You will be asked to leave discussions or the course altogether if you are disrespectful to other students or the instructor.
  • The Kansas Board of Regents sets expectations for course work-load. A full-time student (taking between 12 and 18 hours) should expect to spend between 36-48 hours in and out of the classroom. That means this course will take ~9 hours per week. Some weeks will be busier than others.
  • Because this class is focused on team-based activities, students will be assessed: (1) individually, (2) as a team, and (3) by their peers. Each form of assessment parallels standard business and academic practice. Your peers’ perceptions matter.
  • It is not possible to practice problem solving in teams and groups without being in a team or group. The projects assigned for this class are often not meant to be completed by an individual, they require a team. When you experience difficulty or friction in your group/team, your instructor’s role is to listen and provide guidance. It is the responsibility of group members to resolve conflicts and problems in order to complete the various projects throughout the semester. Instructors only act as a consultant in these matters.
  • Periodically, you will be given class time to meet with your group and discuss your projects; however, the demands of the assignments also require you to meet with your group outside of class.
  • You can be “fired” from your group or team if you are not adequately participating. Firing must be a unanimous and well-document decision executed by all fellow group members. If you are “fired” you are not likely to pass the course.

Other Policies

  • Online participation: Because this is an online course, you will need to log in regularly to participate in the ongoing discussions.
  • Deadlines: All work is due on Blackboard on Saturday of each week at midnight. All written work (i.e., proposal, report, and self-reflection) must be uploaded to Blackboard. Instructors will not accept late work. Instructors will not accept e-mailed assignments. No make-up work is allowed without written instructor permission.
  • Class format: In general, our class will cover content then apply the principles for each module. Discussion videos are not taken directly from the readings. Each student is responsible for content from the readings, videos, and discussion boards. All three sources will be used to create exams.
  • Student accessibility and success. Any student needing accommodations for the course should let the instructor know. Students who need assistance obtaining accommodations may contact Student Access Services at, 785-864-4064, or
  • Academic Misconduct: Academic misconduct is a serious offense. Academic misconduct is described in Article II, Section 6 of the University Senate Rules and Regulations. You are responsible for knowing the standards of academic conduct. The document is available here:
  • Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a serious offense. Using the words and ideas of others is borrowing something from those individuals. It is always necessary to identify the original source of supporting information.  You must cite the source of any material, quoted or paraphrased, in both written work and oral presentations.

Sometimes writers are uncertain about what to cite. Here are some firm guidelines:

  • If you write word for word what appears in another source, put quotation marks around it and cite the source (author, year, page number).
  • If you borrow and summarize ideas, arguments, data, or other information from another source, cite the source even if you put the material in your own words (author, year).
  • Agreeing with the material does not make it your own; if it originated with someone else, give that person credit according to a formally recognized style. Helpful websites:

Grading Philosophy:

  1. Grades are earned. Your grade will be a reflection of what you demonstrated you have learned, not a reflection of how hard you have worked or what you report you have learned after you have received your grade.
  2. 24/7 rule: If you do not understand why you have received the grade you have, please schedule a consultation with your instructor. Please wait 24 hours after receiving an assignment grade to contact the instructor to discuss or appeal it. Further, you have one week from the date the assignment was returned in class to meet with the instructor. When bringing assignments in for discussion, please have thoughtful arguments including being able to point to specifics in the assignment and in your work. The book, lecture slides, and outside sources are all welcome in this conversation.
  3. Extra credit. To earn extra credit in COMS342: Write a 1-page recommendation of what ought to be deleted, added, or modified in any chapter of the online textbook (up to 1% per submission, maximum 2%). Submit all chapter revision papers to
  4. Incompletes are not given in COMS 342.


Assignments and Course Requirements

  1. Exams (24%, 240 points): This class will include three (3) exams. Each exam is worth 80 points. The exams will consist of short-response, multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching, true-false questions, and/or open-ended questions. Each exam will be administered during the time detailed in the schedule below.

***No make-up exams will be allowed without written permission from the lead instructor. 

  1. Do Good Project Step 1: Where and Why Proposal (7.5%, 75 points): The first group project, due early in the semester, will focus on proposing where your group wants to invest time, energy, and effort in your goal of doing good. The purpose of this assignment is to articulate the organization you intend to benefit (where) and why this organization is a worthy cause. In line with the systems approach, this assignment will focus on your anticipated inputs and ideal outputs.
    • Deliverables:
      • One-page Proposal (50 points)
      • Presentation (25 points)

      ***You need to provide Peer Evaluation 1 (25 points) for where and why proposal.

  1. Do Good Project Step 2: When and How Proposal (7.5%, 75 points): Your second task as a team will be to formally articulate a timeline (when) and process (how) you will accomplish your goal. This short proposal will create a Gantt chart detailing major milestones for the group A. In addition, this document should specify who on the team is responsible for what outputs. Communication norms should be outlined (e.g., time for responses, preferred medium for communication) as well as any additional information about the team that might help structure work (i.e., mission, SWOT analysis, contact information). Finally, this document must clearly lay out the criteria for firing a team member. In line with the systems approach, this assignment will focus on throughputs.  
  • Deliverables:
    • Written Proposal (75 points)

      ***You need to provide Peer Evaluation 2 (25 points) for when and how proposal.

  1. Feedback documentation (10%, 100 points): Successful teams listen to the benefitting organizations. This assignment is focused on listening and receiving feedback from the organization you seek to benefit.
  • Deliverables:
    • Documentation of conversation with organization (50 points)
    • Concept-Driven Self-reflection (individual, 50 points)

      ***You need to provide One-on-one Performance Evaluation (50 points: create form, 25

            points; deliver 25 points).

  1. Final Report (15%, 150 points): The goal of this report is to report and summarize your team process and return on investment. Please quantify the hours, items, dollars, etc. you contributed to help your partnering organization in your report assignment. Specific instructions will be posted on Blackboard. In line with the systems perspective this assignment will focus on both throughputs and outputs.
    • Deliverables:
      • Presentation (50 points)
      • Final Written Report (100 points)

       ***You need to provide Final Peer Evaluation (50 points) for the final report.

  1. Discussion Board Participation (21%, 210 points)

      ***Some points in this category may not be allocated

      ***This online class requires you to interact with your classmates in discussion formats.

Discussion boards associated with major units and topics are interspersed in the class design. Your participation in these discussion boards (as indicted in instructions for each board) is essential to your success in the class. 


Grade Points Breakdown (~1000 points)

·   Three Exams 24% (240 points: 80 points each exam)


·   Do Good Project Step 1: Where and Why Proposal 7.5% (75 points: 50 for One-page Proposal, 25 for Presentation)


·   Do Good Project Step 2: When and How Proposal 7.5% (75 points: Written Proposal paper)


·   Do Good Project Step 3: Feedback Documentation-Give and Get Feedback 10% (100 points: 50 points for evidence of feedback and feedback implementation; 50 points for concept-driven self-reflection)


·   Do Good Project Step 4: Final Report 15% (150 points: 100 points for written report, 50 points for presentation)


·   Peer evaluations 15% (150 points: allocated by peers; 25 points Peer Evaluation 1, 25 points Peer Evaluation 2; 50 points for One-on-one Performance Evaluation; 50 points Final Peer Evaluation)


·   Discussion Participation 21% (210 points: across discussion boards and quizzes)


Research Extra Credit, up to 2% (20 points)

Final Grades:

A     89.5 – 100%

B     79.5 – 89.5%

C     69.5 – 79.5%

D     59.5 – 69.5%

F     < 60%



**Final point total may vary by section and allocated points/assignments.






Course Schedule (Summer, 2021)


Note: Each week of class will involve several discussion boards, required videos, essential readings, and occasional quizzes. You are expected to meet with your team (either through chat or with a Teams video call) each week.


**All assignments will be submitted through Blackboard


This schedule is tentative and is subject to change. Changes will be announced by emails, on Blackboard site, as well as in Microsoft Teams.



Week # Tasks and Readings Assignments

Week 1: June 8-June 12


What are teams and groups?





·      Defining Teams and Groups

·      Cooperation

·      Social Comparison



June 12 (Saturday Midnight):



Complete team assignment survey



Week 2: June 14-June 19


The group environment





·      The Psychology of Groups

·      Shared Information Bias

·      Teams as Systems

·      Professional Writing


June 19 (Saturday Midnight):



·       Create a proofreading checklist

·       Start preparing the Step 1 of Do Good Project: Where and Why Proposal

·       Review chapters 1 through chapters 7 for Exam 1


Week 3: June 21-June 26


Team skills





Note: June 22 is the last day to drop with 50% refund






·      Persuasive presentations (Note: Ch. Tested on Exam 2)




June 26 (Saturday Midnight):



·       EXAM 1

·       Due: Do Good Project Step 1-Where and Why Proposal (1-page proposal and group presentation in teams of #)

·       Peer Evaluation 1 for where and why proposal

·       Class will vote on favorite projects


Week 4: June 28- July 3


Team skills continued





·      Inattentional Bias

·      Groups and Meetings

·      Gantt Charts



July 3 (Saturday Midnight):



·     Teams will be reconfigured

·     Start preparing the Step 2 of Do Good Project: When and How Proposal



Week 5: July 5-July 9







Note: No class on July 5th (Independence Day)





·       Organizational Culture

·       Performance Evaluations

·       Power in Teams and Groups




July 9 (Saturday Midnight):



·       Due: Do Good Project Step 2-When and How Proposal

(Outline and timeline for project)

·       Peer Evaluation 2 for when and how proposal

·       Review chapters 8 through chapters 14 for Exam 2



Week 6: July 12-July 17


Creating, changing, and shaping group culture





·       Judgment and Decision Making in Groups (Note: Ch. Tested on Exam 3)

·       Structuration and Symbolic Convergence (Note: Ch. Tested on Exam 3)

·       Leadership (Note: Ch. Tested on Exam 3)




July 17 (Saturday Midnight):



·       EXAM 2 (Note: Since weekly content is focused on Exam 3, consider taking the Exam before reading for the week)

·       Due: Do Good Project Step 3-Give and Get some feedback

o   Proof of contact with beneficiary of work

o   One-on-one performance evaluations

·       Peer evaluation 3: One-on-one performance evaluation


Week 7: July 19-July 24


Leadership and culture





·      Conformity and Obedience

·      Hofstede’s cultural dimensions

·      Intercultural and Plan Crashes



July 24 (Saturday Midnight):



·      Continue working on Do Good project

·      Review chapters 15 through 21 for Exam 3



Week 8: July 26-July 30


Class wrap up





·       Conflict and Negotiation


July 30 (Friday Midnight):



·       EXAM 3

·       Due: Do good Project Step 4- Final Report & Final Presentation

·       Final Peer Evaluation for the final report















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Problem Solving in Teams and Groups by Cameron W. Piercy, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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