Generally, the chapters move the discussion from systems inputs to throughput processes to outcomes. The text is designed so that instructors have the flexibility to skim or skip chapters or cover them in a different order. For instance, we offer a section that covers basic communication theory for students without a previous course in communication, but this section can be skimmed quickly if it reviews materials that students already know.
Part I presents an overview of small group and human communication theory. Chapter 1 introduces several ideas developed in subsequent chapters: the importance of small groups in our lives, types of groups, what constitutes ethical behavior, and why members should become participant-observers in their groups. Chapter 2 consolidates information previously contained in two chapters and presents the basics of communication theory that serve as the foundation for studying small groups. In Chapter 3, we present systems theory as the organizing framework used throughout the text.
Part II begins the discussion of group developing by focusing on the members, the main small group inputs. Chapter 4 introduces the importance of diversity and the contribution that members' cultures and co-cultures make to that diversity. Chapter 5 discusses how member characteristics contribute to the roles that members play in groups.
Part III focuses on the development of the group as an entity by presenting information about a variety of throughput processes. Chapter 6 consolidates logically the information about norms, fantasy themes, and cohesiveness. Chapters 7 and 8 are companion chapters. Chapter 7 focuses on the theoretical concepts necessary to understanding leadership, and Chapter 8 provides practical suggestions for group leaders.
Part IV discusses the importance of having appropriate problem-solving and decision-making processes to improve the quality of group outputs. As with leadership, Chapters 9 and 10 are paired, with Chapter 9 providing conceptual information for understanding problem solving and decision making and Chapter 10 providing specific suggestions and techniques for improving problem-solving and decision-making processes. Chapter 11 focuses on how conflict, if managed well, can improve group outputs.
In Part V, Chapter 12 presents tools for assessing and improving small groups. Users of the text told us they preferred to have this chapter placed at the end, following discussions of theories and concepts. However, these tools and assessments can easily be used throughout the text to enhance discussion of concepts, if instructors prefer. There are two appendices to this edition. Appendix A focuses on how group members can gather and organize their informational resources in preparation for problem solving and decision making. Although this information conceptually precedes Chapters 9 and 10, most upper-division students already know how to gather information. Thus, placement as an internal appendix disrupted the flow of the previous edition. Appendix B discusses how group members can publicly present the results of their work, including how to organize presentations so the information is presented smoothly and seamlessly.