Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version


Document Type



To Improve the Academy, published by The Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, volume 15, 1996.


This article advances two related propositions. One is that virtually all of the commonly reported "problems" with learning groups, such as less content coverage, free-riders, and students' feeling that instructors are not teaching unless they are talking, are a natural consequence of they way the groups are being used. The other is that the vast majority of the problems can be prevented by avoiding group assignments that retard the development of effective learning teams and limit student learning. This article will a) examine the underlying causes of the most commonly reported problems with learning groups, b) outline some simple, but effective, strategies for preventing their occurrence in the first place and, c) describe a new tool, the Learning Activity Impact Grid (LAI-Grid), that can be used to ensure that assignments promote both team development and learning.