Groups and Roles in Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning Roles 

Goal: Designing activities to split group tasks among participants 

Takeaways (2) 

  • Maintains order during the activity
  • Improved participation
  • Able to choose group sizes with deliberate purpose 

Even when students are not together in the classroom, they can still work cooperatively in groups by meeting in virtual breakout rooms, collaborating in shared documents, or communicating by text, chat or email. It is especially important for students to have clearly defined roles and tasks in remote environments since you will likely not be present during group discussions to monitor students’ progress and answer questions.  

Note: Provide clear instructions for the responsibilities that come with each assignment. 

There are many roles, so start simple, then later customize to fit your students’ needs.  Let’s focus on two spotlights and two support roles for now.  

Spotlight Roles:

  • Facilitator: A facilitator guides a discussion and makes sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
  • Presenter: A presenter shares key ideas from the small-group discussion with the full class.

Support Roles:

  • Recorder: The recorder takes notes on the discussion and summarizes the big ideas that come up.
  • Timekeeper: Manages the discussion strategy for taking turns speaking and prompts group members when it is time to switch speakers.

Group Type 

  • Random-chosen for the concept, context, or getting the overall gist  
  • Homogenous groups chosen for similar performance levels
  • Heterogenous groups-chosen for different performance levels 

Group size 

Typically 2-3 students for one-off or quick activities and 3-4 for longer-term projects.  

Roles with purpose 

I want to choose roles that will fit the group problem-solving style of cooperative activity.   

Organized as follows:

  • Assign students their groups and roles
  • Remind students where to go to review the role definitions and their responsibilities
  • Provide them with the prompt, problem, or question to be addressed
  • Have them submit their answers, categorized by role

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