This study sought to explore the perceptions of social loafing held by post-graduate university students within a group work context. The study aimed to advance understanding of how such perceptions can impact group work endeavours. Specifically, the key tenets that guided the study were whether or not the participants had experienced the phenomenon of social loafing through the duration of their university careers; how prevalent it was; how the encounter had shaped their views on group work; how it impacted their motivational levels; whether they had personally engaged in social loafing or not; as well as how they dealt with social loafers within their groups.
This purely qualitative study employed a phenomenological lens in deriving exploratory information from a purposive sample (eight post-graduate students enrolled in the University of Pretoria's Human Resource Management Department).
The findings from the research illustrate that the whole sample had experienced social loafing within a group work context. What differed, were the subjective interpretations of the phenomenon held by the students. Students were readily able to provide specific examples and instances where they had been exposed to loafing by a peer or where they, themselves, had loafed. Students' applied various mechanisms to deal with loafers within their work groups, namely, direct confrontation; eliminating perceived loafers from in-group selection from the onset; peer review or evaluations/appraisals; as well complete conflict avoidance through no action at all.
The presence of a loafer created feelings of frustration amongst most of the students. The phenomenon itself was more likely to occur when there was a lack of incentive or evaluation, disinterest in the topic or limited knowledge of the work content. Further, the larger the group size, the greater the likelihood of a loafer being present. From these findings it is evident that social loafing is common and leaves a lasting impression on those that have been exposed or engaged in the phenomenon.
Recommendations include: the optimal size for a group work task be ideally set at 4 to 5 people; group work activities should have clearly defined goals and objectives; clear means of evaluation must exist to ensure that each group member's contribution can be appraised; prior exposure to the content of the task is important and group work should not take place before modular assessment; lecturers need to take on an active role in mitigating against loafing; realistic time frames for group task completion must be present; and increased focus on educating students on how to be constructive group members should be considered as part of a best practice group work approach.
Mini Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2017.