“That’s me being stupid”: using discursive psychology to analyse self-deprecating humour as a means of constructing group cohesion in PBL

G. Hendry, S. Wiggins, T. Anderson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


One of the most consistently studied constructs within group dynamics and small group literature is that of group cohesiveness; the extent to which individuals within a group feel connected (Greer, 2012). This may be of particular importance for those involved in problem-based learning (PBL), as its over all effectiveness can often rest on the quality of student interactions. Members of strongly cohesive groups are more inclined to participate readily and stay with the group (Dyaram & Kamalanabhan, 2005), so it is imperative to discover how students ‘do being cohesive’. The current paper falls under the theme of ‘PBL process and student engagement’ as it takes a fine-grained approach to understanding student interaction in the PBL tutorial. Past research has highlighted a need for more qualitative analyses into PBL, and so the current study uses real time data to identify how cohesion is socially constructed in the group setting. Thirty-one students across nine PBL groups from two UK universities were video-recorded as they partook in PBL in a psychology programme and an interdisciplinary science programme. The resultant eighty-five hours of data was examined in order to create a corpus of laughter instances, before being analysed using discursive psychology, a relatively unique methodology in PBL research. As ‘attractiveness to the group’ is widely accepted as the conceptualisation of cohesiveness, the current paper is focused on instances of interaction in which a group member selfdeprecates; positioning themselves as an unattractive group member compared to the others, and how this is dealt with through laughter by the rest of the group to construct a sense of solidarity and cohesion. Although the project was based in psychology, findings are not discipline-specific and can be disseminated across subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Research Community
Subtitle of host publicationCollaborations and Developments
EditorsErik de Graaff, Aida Guerra, Anette Kolmos, Nestor A. Arexolaleiba
Place of PublicationAalborg
PublisherAalborg University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978-87-7112-304-3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event5th International Research Symposium on PBL
- Orona Ideo, San Sebastián, Spain
Duration: 6 Jul 20159 Jul 2015

Publication series

NameInternational Research Symposium on PBL
PublisherAalborg University Press
ISSN (Print)2446-3833


Conference5th International Research Symposium on PBL
CitySan Sebastián
Internet address


  • PBL
  • discursive psychology
  • laughter
  • group cohesion
  • humour


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