Student Roles: Democratizing Group Work

By defining student roles in group work, the teacher can support each student to be successful and support a steady work pace for each group
545 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Developing team roles is a strategy that helps students take individual responsibility for a shared group goal. By designating roles within the collaborative groups, the teacher can help ensure that all team members take ownership of the group's work. Identifying, explaining, assigning, and executing group roles are an important element of group norms and collaboration at any grade-level.

Implementation Steps

15 minutes
  1. Divide your students into groups based on your intended goal or outcome.

  2. Assign a team role to each student in the group. Some examples of team roles include: Resource Manager, Facilitator/Leader, Recorder/Note Taker, Task Manager/Timekeeper, Presenter, etc.

  3. Review or develop with the class as a whole what the expectations are for each team role. General guidelines for this include (See more examples of group roles in the resources below):

    1. Resource Manager - Makes sure the team has all materials needed to complete the task

    2. Facilitator - Starts the team work by reading the problem or instructions aloud, keeps everyone focused on the work, alerts the teacher if the group has any questions or stuck points

    3. Recorder/Reporter - Takes notes for the team during the work, reports the results to the teacher or class

    4. Task Manager - Helps the team synthesize their ideas, keeps track of the time

  4. Display the team role norms either in paper form with each group or in the front of the class where students can reference the expectations throughout the activity.

  5. Throughout the team activity, rotate around the room to monitor students as they engage in the activity. If you observe students not following the role protocol, redirect behaviors.

  6. As you observe students displaying exemplar role behaviors, acknowledge those with the class

    1. "I noticed that John was acting as a task manager and helped redirect his group towards their goal when they were struggle to stay focused."

  7. When the activity is over, debrief the roles with students. You can use the "PBL Daily Progress and Work Report" resource below as a guide for developing these reflection questions.

    1. Discuss what went well and any struggles they had within the groups.

    2. Have students reflect on what felt easy in their roles and what felt difficult.

Additional Resources:

Collaborative Learning Guide (Source: ISU.edu)

Evaluation of Student Group Work

This strategy can be used to evaluate student collaboration and engagement during group work. By having the teacher evaluate student collaboration and engagement, students are held accountable for their contributions, time management, and engagement during a team activity.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Create a rubric for each student role within the team.

  2. When assigning student roles and norming the expectations with the class, review the rubric with the students.

  3. Throughout the activity, evaluate the student collaboration and contribution based on the rubric.

  4. Meet with students after the activity to discuss their scores and reflect on their individual engagement and contribution in their team.

Additional Resources:

Rubric for Assessing Group Members (Source: noctrl.edu)

Group Work Rubric (Source: ReadWriteThink.org)

Student Roles During Distance Learning

Tori Todd
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Group roles support students to engage in group work at a distance by clearly defining their responsibilities.

Implementation steps:

  1. As in the steps above, divide your students into groups based on your intended goal or outcome. During distance learning, consider which students could work well together in a small group breakout room or asynchronously.

  2. Most importantly in distance learning is to assign a team role to each student in the group. This allows the students to know what they are expected to do if the teacher is not physically present during their small group work time. Some examples of team roles include: Resource Manager, Facilitator/Leader, Recorder/Note Taker, Task Manager/Timekeeper, Presenter, etc.

  3. During a synchronous class period, review or develop what the expectations are for each team role with the class. General guidelines for this include (See more examples of group roles in the resources below):

    • Resource Manager - Makes sure the team has all materials and tools needed to complete the task

    • Facilitator - Starts the team work by reading the problem or instructions aloud, keeps everyone focused on the work, alerts the teacher if the group has any questions or stuck points

    • Recorder/Reporter - Takes notes for the team during the work using a tool such as googledocs, reports the results to the teacher or class

    • Task Manager - Helps the team synthesize their ideas, keeps track of the time

      • To adapt this step for asynchronous distance learning, consider using a multi-column Padlet for students to record their thoughts about appropriate expectations for each group role.

  4. Provide students with time to work in their groups using breakout spaces in Zoom or Google Meets. As students work together, provide them with space to reflect on their adherence to their group roles. A template like the Daily Project Work Report (below) may be helpful for gathering students' reflections. Check out the "Accountability Structures: Self- and Group-Participation Rubric" and "Group Work Reflection and Self-Assessment" strategies for more reflection templates and rubrics.

    • If students are working asynchronously on group work, provide a digital template for them to reflect independently on their own role in the group and on the group's work as a whole. This can be done by adapting any of the linked templates into a Google Doc or Google Form, or by recording reflections on a program like Flipgrid.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

This strategy provides an excellent opportunity for English learners to engage in academic discussion with groups of native speaking peers. English learners benefit from the scaffolds provided by role protocols.

English learners are required to listen to and share ideas verbally with peers. English may need to read and write in order to engage with group based activities. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Provide discussion frames to use during group work. Explicitly pre-teach discussion frames to English learners. Consider using discussion frames with all learners and practice chorally in preparation for group work. Post discussion frames on the wall as an anchor chart and reference during group check ins. See the "Academic-Language-Functions Toolkit" resource and the "Classroom Collaboration Discussion Frames" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Pre-teach relevant academic vocabulary. Ensure learners understand the vocabulary they encounter and should be using during group work. Have English learners reference their vocabulary sheets during group work. Consider posting target vocabulary for all learners as an anchor chart. See the "Vocabulary Strategies" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Put English learners in heterogeneous groups that will be most supportive. Consider social dynamics as well as language skills to ensure all learners’ voices will be included. Consider anchoring learners at lower levels of proficiency with learners who speak the same home language to allow for idea generation in the home language. See the "How should ELLs be grouped for instruction?" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  4. Assign attainable roles for English learners. Some English learners, especially newcomers and learners at lower levels of proficiency may feel self-conscious in the small group. Ensure the protocols of the roles assigned to them include skills they have. Consider creating roles especially for English learners based on their current language level. See the "WIDA Can Do Descriptors" in the resource section below for more information.
  5. Provide comprehensible content. When groups will be working independently with content, English learners at all proficiency levels will require text or other media in a form they can understand. Provide content or curate a list of sources you know learners will be able to access. Consider providing video content for learners at lower levels of proficiency. Consider partnering with English learners’ specialists for sources designed for speakers of other languages. See the "Research and Bilingual Content Sources for English Learners " resource in the resource section below for more information.
  6. Model and Practice roles. Ensure English learners understand their role and the roles of others in their group by modeling protocols. Consider practicing with the whole class with a readers' theater or role play in advance of group activities.

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Education Specialist

By designating roles within collaborative groups to help ensure that all team members take ownership of the group's work, teachers can effectively help support students with disabilities in group work.   Building engagement in group work for these students is a good avenue to helping them build overall engagement and investment in their learning.

Assigning and executing roles for group work requires significant executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), emotional regulation, reading, and written expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities in these areas, consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Teachers who assign student roles for group work should be mindful of student disability types and needs in addition to formative data when designing groups and activities.  For example, a teacher may consider roles requiring more kinesthetic movement for students with disabilities that affect their ability to sit and focus for longer periods of time.

  2. Teachers should thoughtfully plan modifications for any roles planned.  A variety of modifications should be considered for each group’s activities, i.e. allow students with disabilities in a group access to read aloud for a text or provide sentence stems to write responses to a text for students with writing impairments.

  3. Use structured handouts that help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion when assigning and executing group work roles.   See the "Team Roles: Accommodated Handout" in the resource section below.

  4. Use visual timers and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion  when assigning and executing group work roles.  

  5. Depending upon the number of students with disabilities present in a classroom, teachers should consider increasing the amount of time they spend on explicitly teaching norms for executing group work roles.  The first few rounds of assigned group work roles in a classroom should be followed by explicit individual and whole group feedback on engagement and task completion. 

 

Questions to Consider

  • How could group roles help students take individual responsibility for a shared goal?

  • How could you ensure group roles are being used effectively?

  • How do you identify which student gets which role?

  • What could be challenging for students when they have specific roles within a group? How can you support those challenges?