Assign Roles

For assignments that require the group to work through a process together to answer each question, you should define roles and let your students make only a few (3-5) submissions.

The submissions limitation helps all group members take the work seriously and encourages your students to think carefully before they submit their responses.

Well-defined roles help your students to work productively together; preferably students should change roles during the term in order to practice the skills required for each role. Common roles for 3- and 4-person groups are described in the following table.



Manager or Organizer
The group leader who ensures that the group completes the task
  • Directs the sequence of steps in the problem.
  • Manages time. Example: "We have to move on. If we have time, we'll come back to this discussion later."
  • Reinforces the merits of everyone's ideas. Example: "That's an interesting idea. Does anyone else have a suggestion before we evaluate it?"
  • Ensures that each group member participates. Example: "Does anyone have an idea what approach we could take for this problem?"
Responsible for developing consensus, recording group decisions, and submitting answers
  • Writes actual steps on the whiteboard.
  • Checks for understanding of all group members. Example: "Does everyone understand what concept this experiment is covering, and how it is used?"
  • Makes sure all group members agree on each step of the problem. Example: "I'm hearing more than one idea. Can we agree on how to proceed?"
Skeptic or Questioner
Responsible for ensuring that the group considers alternative ideas and does not draw conclusions prematurely
  • Makes sure all possible problem-solving strategies are explored. Example: "Can we visualize this problem differently?"
  • Suggests alternative approaches or concerns with suggested processes. Example: "Are we using the correct units?"
  • Provides reasoning and explanations of steps to group members as necessary. Example: "Does anyone want me to explain what's helpful about this diagram?"
Summarizer (optional)
Responsible for helping to motivate the group and reiterating what has been accomplished
  • Summarizes the solution and the group's discussion. Example: "So, we started with the fundamental principle of momentum, and proceeded to …"
  • Maintains group's energy through encouragement, humor, enthusiasm, or other methods. Example: "I see that we are on the right track. Good job, everyone!"