Using Technology to Understand Group Process: Creating Shared Visions to Tell a Patient's Story

June 5, 2017 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Valerie Terry, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
Arden Dingle, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine

Symbolic Convergence Theory explains how a group of diverse individuals, for example, the initial cohort of first-year undergraduate medical students at a new medical school, can arrive at a collective understanding about an event or person. In medical education, the person in question usually is a patient.

In an orientation activity at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, we asked students to use iPads to record a small group consensus-building exercise. The resulting videos are being used to provide comprehensive formative feedback on interpersonal communication performed in a group context aimed at achieving a targeted objective.

We randomly assigned the students to groups of six-seven individuals. We charged each group with creating a dramatic illustration of one of the "getting to know you" impromptu interviews each had conducted and recorded previously with another classmate.

The purpose of the dramatic illustration was to tell the selected interviewee's story. The illustration could take the form of a skit, a drawing, or any other creative expression. The overall goal was to emphasize how Communication discipline-grounded rhetorical theory can help physicians learn about the whole patient, that is, the meaning, emotion and motive for action (Cragan and Shields, 1995) driving how and why people do things, individually or community-wide, that affect their health.

We propose to replicate this activity in our innovative demonstration.


Cragan, J.F. & Shields, D.C. (1995). Symbolic theories in applied communication research: Bormann, burke and fisher. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc.