Give A First Warning/alx

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Give A First Warning
Contributors Christian Köppe
Last modification May 15, 2017
Source Köppe (2012)[1][2]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

All members of the group did Share Expectations (Share Expectations) and started working on the group assignment.


Some group members are not fulfilling the expectations and goals agreed on earlier which leads to an unbalanced participation in the group and endangers a good assignment completion.

Insufficient Participation. Group members start to come late for group appointments or do not show up at all or do not deliver their work products as agreed or do not execute their agreed on tasks at all.

Team Grading. In group assignments, often the whole group is graded. If one of the group members does not fulfill the assigned tasks, then the whole group will get a lower grade. Because of this often students have to “cover" and fill in what others who do not meet their commitments do not do. This can cause much hard work and discomfort to other team members in order to not endanger their own grade which is based on the team grade.

Friend Politics. It is hard to criticize friends, even though they do not behave in the group as expected. Students find it more often easier to suffer from the misbehavior of their friends than to demand a behavior change. It can also be that students obscure the not-functioning of a friend because of arrangements they made, e.g. regarding work distribution for multiple courses.

Required Manpower. Most group assignments are designed for a specific number of students. If not all students of a group participate as expected, then there is a high chance of not having enough manpower to realize the assignment in the way the teacher intended. Therefore all team members are required to participate sufficiently.


Therefore: Confront the group member with his or her behavior and explain why it is a problem, thereby ensuring a constructive attitude. Make the consequences clear if the behavior does not improve and make specific agreements on how the student intends to work on the improvement.

Everybody should get the chance to improve his or her behavior, but without a confrontation the unwanted behavior will probably not change! It is important that this confrontation is done with a constructive attitude: the goal is that the team member starts to fulfill all assigned tasks sufficiently. It is therefore also the first step to ask the member why he or she is not working as expected. If personal problems are the reason, then it should be discussed how much impact these have on the fulfillment of the assignment tasks. In the case of time problems due to a job it could help to Plan External Worktime (Plan External Worktime). If the problems lie in missing knowledge, then the team should help to Fill Knowledge Gaps (Fill Knowledge Gaps) of the student. In other cases it might be a sufficient solution to Spread Tasks Appropriately (Spread Tasks Appropriately) again, but if the problems are too big the teacher should become involved.

If no relevant problems are the reasons, then the team member should be reminded of his or her commitments and asked to fulfill them. In some cases the pure fact of asking nicely if someone would start working as expected does not lead to a change in behavior. It is therefore helpful if the consequences of not changing the behavior are communicated as well.

In most cases it is better if the team member is not confronted by the whole team, as this might be overwhelming and often does not lead to a constructive atmosphere. In most cases this is the responsibility of the team leader. If this role is not explicitly used or the team leader is not able to handle this confrontation, you might consider to Nominate One Communicator (Nominate One Communicator).

Possible consequences for the student that could be decided on and communicated are:

—the student has to treat the whole group for a coffee if he or she it too late.

—the students gets assigned less important assignment tasks, which also will be reported on the deliverables and might lead to a lower individual grading.

—feedback is provided to the teacher about the members’ behavior, which could lead e.g. to the exclusion of the member from the team grading and apart grading of the members’ assignments (you can also Ask for Individual Grading (Ask for Individual Grading)).

—as last consequence: exclusion of the member from the team.

One member of a team did not show up on the first two meetings of the team. The team leader then told this member that they all agreed on attending all meetings and asked him what the reasons are for his not-attending. It showed that the meetings were planned in times when the student also had to work for his job. So the team leader asked the member to suggest possible meeting dates, also taking his job obligations into account (an application of Plan External Worktime (Plan External Worktime)). As the result the member had no problems anymore to attend all meetings.

In another team, one student attended all meetings but did not finish all parts of the deliverables assigned to her. The team told her in the third meeting that they will not include her name on the deliverables if she continues with not delivering the results and doing this in sufficient quality. It showed that the student was missing sufficient knowledge of the modeling technique applied in the course, so the team decided to help her to Fill Knowledge Gaps (Fill Knowledge Gaps) by pairing her with another student for some of the tasks and by re-assigning some other tasks so that they match her knowledge level.


  1. Köppe, C. (2012). Learning patterns for group assignments: part 1. In Proceedings of the 19th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2012). The Hillside Group.
  2. Also mentioned in de Cortie, T., van Broeckhuijsen, R., Bosma, G., & Köppe, C. (2013). Learning patterns for group assignments: part 2. In Proceedings of the 20th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2013). The Hillside Group.