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Anticipating Conflict and Forming Group Guidelines

Submitted By Shannon Wheatley Hartman

This activity empowers group members to anticipate potential conflict in group discussions and create guidelines that will address these concerns and bring out the best characteristics of the group.

average rating is 4.8 out of 5, based on 6 votes, rating(s)
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Learning Goals

  • Anticipate group dynamics with a specific focus on potential group conflict.

  • Work together as a group to establish guiding principles.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

Organize the participants into pairs or small groups (5-6 ppl).

If the group completed Activity 1.1 What is Collaborative Learning?, then use the lists of positive and negative attributes as a starting point for this activity.

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Generate Lists of Positive & Negative Attributes (10 min)

Invite participants to think back to a time when they were working with others on a project. In pairs or small groups, ask them to generate a written list of both positive and negative traits that they associate with collaboration. Do not debate or discuss the validity of contributions. Generate broad lists. Prompts:

  • What made the collaboration work well? Ex: clear communication, shared goals, feelings of inclusion or trust.

  • What made the collaboration challenging? Ex: dominating personalities, power dynamics, no follow through of tasks.

Step Two: Prioritize Attributes (10 min)

In pairs or small groups, ask participants to discuss which of the negative attributes they are most concerned about. Prompt:

  • Which negative attributes are most likely to occur in our discussions or with our particular collaboration? Select the top three concerns or negative attributes.

When finished, repeat this process but focus on positive attributes. Again, ask participants to reflect on this particular group and decide which positive traits would be most helpful. Prompt:

  • Which positive attributes would benefit our discussions the most? Select the top three positive traits or attributes.

Step Three: Discuss as a Full Group (10 min)

Regroup as a whole and invite each small group to share their top three positive and negative attributes. Discuss:

  • Where do we see overlap or common themes?

  • As we review our consolidated lists, what might be missing?

  • What are the top five positive or negative traits for our group as a whole?

Step Four: Craft Guiding Principles (20 min)

Once the group has identified approximately their top five traits (positive or negative), create a space where they can craft sample guidelines that reflect these traits. This could be done on a white board or shared google document. For example:

  1. If the concern is “negativity,” then the guideline might be “Bring your positive attitude and energy. Have fun!”

  2. If the concern is “dominating personalities,” then the guideline might be “Make room for everyone to be heard. Listen to understand.”

  3. If the positive trait is trust, then the guideline might be “Respect our community. Critique ideas, not people.”

Step Five: Debrief as a Full Group (10 min)


  • How often should we revisit this list?

  • What should be our process if someone violates our stated principles?

  • When are guidelines limiting and/or unproductive?

  • How might we adjust in anticipation to these concerns?





Introduction to Collaborative Discussion

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average rating is 4 out of 5

September 16, 2023 at 2:25:09 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

June 27, 2023 at 3:07:43 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

June 16, 2023 at 5:01:38 AM

Great activity!

average rating is 5 out of 5

June 16, 2023 at 5:00:51 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Shannon Wheatley Hartman

December 7, 2022 at 6:39:24 PM

I think we all know that creating guidelines is important. I introduce activity 1.1 What is Collaborative Learning? first and then use the positive and negative attributes that they generate to help form our group guidelines.

average rating is 5 out of 5


November 29, 2022 at 1:34:01 AM

Activity 1.3 is a good activity that helps develop a sense of cohesion and psychological safety in the group.

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