Spread Tasks Appropriately/alx

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Spread Tasks Appropriately
Contributors Christian Köppe, Thomas de Cortie, Ronald van Broeckhuijsen, Gerard Bosma
Last modification May 16, 2017
Source Köppe (2012)[1]; de Cortie, van Broeckhuijsen, Bosma & Köppe (2013)[2]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

A group assignment is given to a group of students. You have been debriefed by the instructor about the several tasks and work products that are involved. You find yourself at the beginning of the project.


If you don’t take the limitation of your group members in consideration while assigning the tasks, this could lead to decreased productivity or a missing opportunity to learn new knowledge.

Insufficient Knowledge. A group member does not have enough knowledge to complete the task that was assigned to him. This could interfere with the progress of the assignment.

Moving Force. A group member does not have any interest and/or she lacks the motivation to complete the task that was assigned to her. So, possibly, the effort that he would put into it could be reduced.

Deterioration of Knowledge. A member of the group can try to take too many of the challenging tasks and responsibilities. This results in that the other members will have less to work on and will learn less from the tasks that were assigned to them. The reversed scenario is also common, where one only takes a few simple tasks while leaving the others to do most of the complex work.

Task Dependencies. Some tasks can not be started or completed because they depend on the result of another task. This could stall the overall progress of the project.

Time Span. Every task needs a certain amount of time to be finished. If several tasks are assigned to one student, it could take too much time to finish them all before the deadline.


Therefore: Spread all responsibilities and tasks as appropriately as possible among all group members. Take their knowledge levels, interests, motivations and dependencies between the tasks, time and other constraints into account.

Each team member has her own skills and limitations. Assign tasks based on these skills and limitations and on the constraints of the project.

Keep in mind the following constraints when dividing tasks among team members: If the knowledge level of the student is too low, the progress could stall and the task could not be finished in time. There are a few possibilities to resolve this problematic situation. For example, an extra team member can be assigned to the task and you can increase productivity with two persons thinking on the same problems. You could also help your team member by suggesting information to read to increase his knowledge as in Fill Knowledge Gaps (Fill Knowledge Gaps).

If the time left is too limited for this, it’s also possible to reassign the task. Assigning tasks to a team member who has interest in the subject or one that has a high motivation compared to the other students, could increase productivity. Assign the tasks that depend on other tasks first, so that when those are finished the group can move on with the parts that follow.

Every task needs a certain amount of time. Assign the tasks to the team members so that each team member has sufficient time to complete the tasks before the deadline of the assignment. Manage the Project (Manage the Project) to keep track of the progress.

In most cases this pattern is used at the beginning of a project. But sometimes the pros and cons were misjudged or you are using different iterations. In these cases you should redo Spread Tasks Appropriately (Spread Tasks Appropriately).


A group assignment was given to a group of students. During the initial evaluation of the project it appeared that one student conducted most of the work products done and possessed the most knowledge of these while the other group members lacked the knowledge of the work products and some work products were not finished.

When asking further about the task assignments, it appears that that one person had lots of responsibilities and tasks while the other group members were experiencing some problems executing the assigned tasks. One student could not finish, because he needed results from his group member which was putting a lot of effort in it, but just lacked the knowledge to complete his task.

Proposition was made to reassign the tasks among the students. The student with a lack of knowledge was supported from the student with the big workload. And his workload was reassigned to the waiting student. The task of the waiting student was later done by the other two students.

After the reassignment the motivation of the group members was boosted. Eventually all students were putting the same effort into the project. Also the student with the lack of knowledge increased his learning and overall participation in the work products.


  1. First mentioned in 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. Pattern published 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.