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Wednesday, June 22 • 16:45 - 18:00
POSTER.53 - The Social Loafing Problem: Assessment of a Novel Tool to Increase Accountability in Students during Group Work

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Group work is an essential component of learning. Its benefits include increased productivity, enhanced communication, and improvements in critical thinking (Drury, Kay, & Losberg, 2003; Pfaff & Huddleston, 2003). One challenge with group work is “social loafing”; a psychological phenomenon in which a group member exerts less effort in comparison to working alone (William and Karau, 1991). Therefore, social loafing can be a major contributor to negative group-work experiences (Teng & Luo,m 2015; Aggarwal & O’Brien, 2008) and social loafers can disrupt team dynamics and significantly affect productivity (Drury, Kay, & Losberg, 2003). This is a major concern for educators since positive experience with group work also aids students in preparation of their roles in the professional world (Pfaff & Huddleston, 2003; Chen, Donahue & Klimoski, 2004).

Our study used the “Accountability Matrix”, a novel tool meant to increase accountability in each group member. This matrix is a tracking system that records each group member’s attendance, punctuality, task assignment and completion. It is a tool for both educators and students to track group progress. We are using a survey created by Cantwell and Andrews (2002) to assess feelings towards group work in a second-year undergraduate course with an enrollment of about 200 students in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). In this study, students work in groups of 4 during their weekly tutorials over a single semester (January to April 2016). A total of eight tutorials were randomly assigned to receive either one of two interventions: [1] The Accountability Matrix group- access to group work tracking tool (i.e., to record attendance, punctuality, task assignment and completion) designed specifically for this study or [2] The Accountability (Control) Matrix group – access to attendance only. We predict that students in the Accountability Matrix group will report greater positive feelings toward group work as compared to the Accountability (Control) Matrix group.

Selected References:

Cantwell, R. H., & Andrews, B. (2002). Cognitive and psychological factors underlying secondary school students' feelings towards group work.Educational Psychology, 22(1), 75-91.

Chen, G., Donahue, L. M., & Klimoski, R. J. (2004). Training undergraduates to work in organizational teams. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 3(1), 27-40.

Drury, H., Kay, J., & Losberg, W. (2003). Student satisfaction with groupwork in undergraduate computer science: do things get better?. In Proceedings of the fifth Australasian conference on Computing education,20, 77-85.

Pfaff, E., & Huddleston, P. (2003). Does it matter if I hate teamwork? What impacts student attitudes toward teamwork. Journal of Marketing Education,25(1), 37-45.


Sogol Afshar

Sogol Afshar, graduated from the Department of PNB with an honours degree in Psychology.

Lydia Hicks

Lydia Hicks, second year student in the Department of PNB.

Additional Authors

Ayesha Khan

Dr. Ayesha Khan is an Assistant Professor at McMaster with the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior. Her research interests explore enhancement of undergraduate student experience through experiential education and ways through which social loafing can be decreased... Read More →

Cheryl Chow

PhD student from the MiNDS Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Wednesday June 22, 2016 16:45 - 18:00 EDT
Atrium, Physics & Astronomy Building Western University