Mediate the Dispute/alx

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Mediate the Dispute
Contributors Thomas de Cortie, Ronald van Broeckhuijsen, Gerard Bosma, Christian Köppe,
Last modification May 16, 2017
Source de Cortie, van Broeckhuijsen, Bosma & Köppe (2013)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

You are a member of a group. You are either in the beginning, in the middle, or in the final phase of the project.


There is a dispute between group members, which has a negative impact on the motivation and the participation. There might be negative consequences on the project results.

Conflicting personalities. In a group there can be people whose personalities don’t go well together. After working together for a while, this can cause an increasing dislike in each other.

Bad communication. If the communication in the group isn’t good, there is a chance people misunderstand each other. And if the misunderstanding is serious enough, this could result in a conflict.

Different expectations. When group members have opposite expectations or goals, especially when this is not shared well between them, there is a chance a conflict occurs.

Insufficient motivation. A group can have a member who is only doing the very minimum, never shows any motivation and sometimes just doesn’t finish her parts at all. This shows the group that they can’t rely on her. If they need to split tasks in a later part of the assignment, they will be less likely to trust her with important tasks. Also, if there is a student in the group who is doing not enough, the others in the group could get annoyed.

Bad decision making. If the one in charge of a group is making wrong decisions, there is a risk the other group members will become unhappy with his leadership and a conflict could occur.

Blaming. If a group member is blamed for a certain problem he didn’t cause himself, this can cause some irritations towards his fellow group members. Being unfairly blamed often results in unhappiness to work with these particular students anymore, especially if the blaming happens on a regular basis. This can result in a conflict.

Placating. A group member takes all the blame for mistakes, even when he has nothing to do with it. The other members can start to abuse this situation.

Wiseacre. One group member has an opinion that doesn’t fit with and ignores the view of the others.


Therefore: Identify the cause of the dispute together with the concerned group members - and maybe some outside person like the teacher. Once the cause has been found, find a way where both parties can live with during the rest of the project or, if possible, look for a solution that will resolve the dispute.

If a conflict occurs, the first stage is to identify the cause of the clash. Once the cause has been found, the goal is to try to find a solution for it. This isn’t always easy, especially if the conflict has been going on for a while or has been caused by serious issues. Sometimes, for example when there are opposing personalities that has been causing problems, it can be useful to get help from other students or a teacher to mediate the dispute. Together, they will have to discuss the issue and express their feelings and ideas. To come to a solution, it is important to take each others interests into account and to understand what will be needed to bring the project to a successful end. They have to find a middle way that works for both.

For a group where the leader’s actions have caused a conflict, it is important to talk about it. Talk with each other, try to remain friendly and discuss the issue in a mature way while looking for a solution. Sometimes a leader isn’t aware that his actions are causing conflicts, talking about it can help. Another possible approach is to suggest to (temporary) take another leader to see how that goes.

Also, if the communication between the team members isn’t good and this is causing issues, it’s important for the fellow team members to help out as much as they can in providing any communication when possible. Just to sit and talk with the team about the occurring issues is important to get things resolved or at least get some mediation.

The same counts when a team member is unmotivated or when there are opposite expectations and these are causing a clash. If Share Expectations (Share Expectations) didn’t work, the only way would be to all sit together and share thoughts and opinions.

As the main goal is to finish the assignment successfully, in the end they have to find a middle way all could live with. Once they have found a compromise that works for all involved, they will have to keep working on the problem so it won’t escalate again or find ways to avoid it. Also, Keep Team Spirit (Keep Team Spirit) high might help. If the team spirit is high, the team is more happily together and this could surely help to prevent further conflicts.


A group of students had to work on a team assignment. They never worked together before and they were all quite different people. One of them preferred to do homework on the very last minute, while one of the others wanted it to be done as soon as possible. Both of them were quite direct persons who said what they think. This resulted in a slight annoyance about the way the other one worked. As the assignment progressed, they started to dislike each other more and more. To the point that they wished they were in a different group. This resulted in a drop of motivation that affected the whole team. After they sat down with a person outside their group, in this case a teacher, they discussed the issue, and together they agreed on some improvements. Both were going to do the assigned parts the way they prefer. And they decided to do some social activities to build up the team spirit (as in Celebrate Your Team (Celebrate Your Team)). This worked out really well for both of them, and with the raised team spirit motivation improved quickly. They also agreed that if further issues would occur, they would have to try to discuss it with each other directly before a new, more serious problem could arise. As result, there were no other conflicts the remaining time of the assignment and when something small occurred, they discussed this in a mature and successful way.


  1. 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.