Not the Desired Outcome: Groupthink Undermines the Work of a Literacy Council

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A history of school reform failure has prompted concern among literacy researchers and practitioners alike. This article considers the case of a school Literacy Council and its unsuccessful efforts to improve the school’s literacy environment. Mobilizing Janis’s notion of groupthink, I examine discourse among group members and suggest that characteristics of groupthink—problematic antecedents cultivating troubling decision-making symptoms—led to unsuccessful outcomes. During times of low stress, Literacy Council members collaborated effectively, but when the principal’s unilateral curricular decision raised stress levels, the group succumbed to groupthink and experienced failure. This study offers implications for other groups which are shaken by a late-emerging threat. I argue that groupthink theory shines light on problems with group interaction. An awareness of precursors to and symptoms of groupthink may support work teams as they propose and enact important change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-541
Number of pages25
JournalSmall Group Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • case study
  • decision making
  • groupthink
  • meetings
  • teachers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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