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Beebe & Masterson's Constellation Model

Explanation of Theory:
Beebe and Mastersonís Constellation Model builds from a systems perspective and states that in order for a group to be successful it must consider all possible sender, receiver, and message variables which occur in a small group.  The model posits that there is a relationship between communication, leadership, goals, norms, roles, cohesiveness, and situation. Each must be analyzed to determine group effectiveness. 

Theorists:  Steven A. Beebe and John T. Masterson 

Date: 1997 

Primary Article:
     Beebe, S.A. & Masterson, J.T. (1997). Communicating in Small Groups (5th ed.). New York: Longman, 48 

Individual Interpretations: Beebe and Masterson's Constellation model explains that in a group there is a strong relationship between seven aspects of communication and group overall effectiveness. This theory also explains that attention must be paid to all communicators in the group, including the senders and receivers of the messages. 

Metatheoretical Assumptions: Being a Humanistic theory, the following metatheoretical assumptions should be advanced: 

Ontological Assumptions: There are many different paths this theory can take in terms of group atmosphere and the outcomes of using and not using certain communication styles. 

Epistemological Assumptions: Given the fact that each group member has the free will to take on certain roles and adopt certain communication styles leads to the conclusion that there is no determinism in this theory. 

Axiological Assumptions: The Constellation model shows no signs of being value laden, making this theory lean towards the scientific side on the continuum (Griffin). 

Critique: The Constellation Model is an informative theory about group communication, however, it is very broad in terms of what an individual must do in order to acquire such traits, and also what one must do if he or she is lacking any one or more of these communication traits. A solution to this would aid in the usefulness of the theory.

Analytic Consistency- This theory is consistent with the belief that group normality and group function is highly determined by the amount of skill present in terms of communication by its members. 

Methodological Rigor- Studying groups in this way is done so by observation 

Intuitive Credibility-This is a very viable theory because it utilizes all of the key aspects to group communication such as communication, leadership, goals, norms, etc. 

Heuristic Value- This is a very useful theory that can be utilized in other group based theories. 

Ideas and Implications: Beebe and Masterson's Constellation Model clearly demonstrates how a member of a group can affect others in the group based on his or her communication skills.  The interconnectedness of the communication traits is vital in the effectiveness of a group member, and the awareness of this fact that Beebe and Masterson portray is very informative from a communicative standpoint. 

Example: Group A, upon meeting for the first time, discussed each of their communication skills and what they can contribute to their group. Each member listened intently to the others who shared in order to find out what areas are strong within the group. Following this event, one member, Pat, informed the entire group of their strengths and weaknesses, and the amount of participation each member must invest in the group in order for it to function properly and effectively. 

This is an example of the Constellation Model at work. Members of Group A each communicated the skills in which they possess and areas of weakness, while the other listened. Then one group member, most likely the leader, presented the group with norms and goals that they must all keep in focus. 

Relevant Research:
Shimanoff, S. B. (1980), Communication Rules: Theory and Research, Beverly Hills, Sage Publications, 57 

Littlejohn, S. W. (1989). Theories of Human Communication, 5th ed., Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 60. 

Brilhart, J. K. (1995). Effective Group Discussion, 8th ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown, 26. 

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. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

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

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A