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Adaptive Structuration

Explanation of Theory: Adaptive Structuration focuses on the structure that is created and recreated through the generative and adaptive rules and resources of the group members.

Theorists: Gary Dickson, Scott Poole, and Geradine DeSanctis 


Primary Article: Poole, M. S., & DeSanctis, G. (1990). Understanding the use of group decision support systems: The theory of adaptive structuration. In J. Fulk & C. Steinfield (eds.), Organizations and Communication Technology. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. p. 173-193. 

Model: Can be found on page 231 in Understanding Communication Theory by Cragan & Shields 

Individual Interpretations: I believe that this theory is very good because it gives examples for and explains both stability and change within the group. It also touches on how work groups incorporate technology into their problem solving attempts.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

Ontological Assumptions: This theory is very deterministic in that groups follow a structure or guidelines, yet they are willing to adapt through many differnt structures. Rules are always being created for the group.

Epistemological Assumptions: This theory is based on one truth that groups are constantly chaning rules and guidelines. The theory focusses on the fact that groups will always be able to adjust to these changes. 

Axiological Assumptions: This theory is value-laden, taking into account the fact that groups often times need to make changes to better themselves or due to certain circumstances. If the group considers the values of their members, they will adapt well to these changes.

Critique:This theory is useful in examining the role that power plays in the development of groups. Yet, it is difficult to understand how groups can be broken down into separate parts for studying. This theory can also be difficult to understand because there are so many parts to it. 

Ideas and Implications:

- Groups should not view the particular structures they must work through as being barriers to their work, yet as being necessities to help tem get the job done. 

- There is an input- process- output model followed with this theory. 

Example:The particular structure of the space that a group has to work in and the structure or amount of time that they have for decision-making can greatly affect the ways in which groups can adapt to working well together. For instance, groups who are stuck in a cramped meeting room, with only an hour to decide on something probably will not be as effective as a group who could have several hours and meet at a local restaurant. 

Relevant Research:

    Poole, M. S., Seibold, D. R., & McPhee, R. D. (1985). Group Decision-making as a structurational process. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 71, 74-102.

    Poole, M. S., Seibold, D. R., & McPhee, R. D. (1986). A structurational approach to theory-building in group decision-making research. In R. Y. Hirokawa & M. S. Poole (Eds.), Communication and group decision making (pp. 2437-264). Beverly Hills: Sage. 

    Seibold, D. (1998). Jurors¹ intuitive rules for deliberation: a structural approach to communication in jury decision making. Communication Monographs, 65, p. 287-307. 

Other Communication Scholars that have looked at this topic include:Anthony Giddens, David Seibold, and Robert McPhee.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R. & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of Communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin¹s Press, not in.

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, p. 229-230.

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, p. 209-210, & 224-233. 

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 256.

     Infante, D. A., Rancer, A.S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, p. 180 & 348-351. 

     Littlejohn, S.W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, p. 319-322. 

     West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, p. 209-223. 

     Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, not in.