Group work

I want to address a chronic problem that I’ve been overlooking, regarding group work. The assignments are too casual, generally along the lines of “OK, now turn to your partner and discuss how to solve quadratic equations.” (To be fair to myself, sometimes it’s actually a bit more specific than that.)

This year I’m going to assign specific roles and publish the tasks that make up each role. There will be one set of roles for pairs and another set for teams of four. (The students sit in teams of four. It’s easy to instantly work as four or as two.) The details:


Scribe keeps notes and writes summary. Reporter summarizes findings for whole group.


Captain facilitates discussions, including monitoring deadlines.  Manager of Quality Control inspects written work for clarity, accuracy, completeness, and is also responsible for collecting and distributing materials. Scribe takes notes and writes summary of work. Reporter summarizes findings of whole group.

In teams of four, roles are associated with specific seating assignments. Students are assigned numbered seats within each group, with the numbers 1-4  matching the quadrants in a coordinate plane. Team captain sits in top-right seat (of group of four), with other roles following counter-clockwise.

Additionally, in my class these quadrants are mapped to the four suits in standard playing cards, for purposes of randomly calling on individual students. (Spade=1; heart=2; club=3; diamond=4.) When I randomly pull the eight of clubs from my deck, this represents the student sitting in Team 8, seat #3.


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