Rotate Team Roles

Context: You plan activities with Groups Work or Self-Managing Teams and want to maximize learning and minimize problems. You want students to work and learn together effectively, and you want every student to develop a range of relevant knowledge and skills.


Forces & Problem: Many students don’t realize how many tasks and skills are needed for productive teams. Members must communicate within the team, process information, analyze problems, develop and evaluate solutions, manage time and materials, make decisions, write down key ideas and action items, share results outside the team, and think about how the team could work more effective in the future. Students tend to avoid roles that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or difficult. Thus, an extrovert leads, and the person with neat handwriting takes notes. If a few students take the lead on all of these tasks, other students might be idle, and some tasks might receive too little attention.


Solution & Consequences: Therefore, define a set of roles, assign a role to each team member, and rotate the roles each class period so each student gets experience with each role, not just the role(s) they prefer. Define roles that reflect the work to be done, divide the tasks equitably, and remind students of the range of tasks in a team (e.g. deBono, 1999). In the short term, team might work less efficiently as students struggle with unfamiliar roles and tasks; in the longer term, teams will become more effective as all students improve.

Discussion: Rotate Team Roles and Think About How You Work are both common elements of Self-Managing Teams. You could print colored cards with the name of each role and a brief description, so that each student has a card to remind them of their role, and you can easily identify who has which role by the text or color.

A disadvantage of Rotate Team Roles is that the whole team might suffer when a student has a role that is unfamiliar or difficult. Thus, you need to actively monitor team progress to help all students succeed. As a result, Rotate Team Roles might be less effective and more problematic for homework assignments, projects, or activities where you are not present.

Examples: in a POGIL classroom, the following roles are common:

  • Leader or Manager: leads the team, keeps track of time, ensures that all members participate and fill their roles.
  • Recorder: takes notes for the team that everyone will use later.
  • Speaker or Presenter: answers or asks questions on behalf of team (Speak for Team)
  • Reflector or Strategy Analyst: considers how the team could work more effectively.
  • Technician: uses the calculator, computer, laboratory equipment, or other specialized tools.

Author: Clif Kussmaul

Publication: C Kussmaul. 2017. Patterns in classroom facilitation for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL). HILLSIDE Proc. of Noridc Conf. on Pattern Lang. of Programs. 17. (Mar-Apr 2017)

Contributors to this page: Clif Kussmaul .
Page last modified on Sat November 11, 2017 14:05:49 EST by Clif Kussmaul. (Version 3)