Improving Small Group Learning with Roles

Our SI rep has been teaching us that when you separate into groups you should assign every member of the group a role. This helps each student participate in the group learning process. No matter the size of your group, you should assign a role to each student. Assignments may be given by the teacher, by a group/zone leader, or randomly. Here are some roles you might use in your small groups:

  • Leader – The leader is responsible for keeping the group on the assigned task at hand. S/he also makes sure that all members of the group have an opportunity to participate, learn and have the respect of their team members. The leader may also want to check to make sure that all of the group members have mastered the learning points of a group exercise.
  • Recorder/scribe – The recorder or scribe keeps written records of all group activities and conclusions, including the material contributed by each group member. The recorder writes out the solutions to problems for the group to use as notes or to submit to the instructor. The recorder may also prepare presentation materials when the group makes oral presentations to the class. Depending on the activity, instructions might read: “Your role is to summarize the key points that your group is making, check that the whole group agrees with them, and then write them down. You may also be expected to explain your group’s findings to the rest of the class. There is much more to being a Scribe than just writing!”
  • Reporter/Presenter – The reporter gives oral responses to the class about the group’s activities or conclusions.
  • Monitor – The monitor is responsible for making sure that the group’s work area is left the way it was found and acts as a timekeeper for timed activities. Instructions might read: “The teacher will choose students at random from your group to report back on what your group has learned and decided. The teacher may ask questions of more than one student from your group. They may also set a quiz or test on the material. Your role is to check that all the students in your group understand your group’s findings, and can report it to the rest of the class clearly. Do this by preparing and asking questions of your group. You are allowed a full (five?) minutes to do this. If one of your group can’t answer the teacher’s questions – guess whose fault this will be!”
  • Wildcard (in groups of five) – The wildcard acts as an assistant to the group leader and assumes the role of any member that may be missing.
  • Questioner – Instructions for this role might read: “Your role is to ‘skim’ the resources and then decide on important questions that the resources should answer. For example, “Who believed Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision and why?” The aim is to focus the group’s attention on the key points. You then give your questions to the group for it (including you!) to answer. You can add to, or change your questions as you get more familiar with the materials. You may also ask supportive and clarifying questions to help the group complete its task(s)”.
  • Correlation Committee/Vocabulary Chief- “There is some difficult vocabulary in this material. Your role is to research and explain the meaning of all the difficult terms. You could devise a ‘glossary’ for your group if you think this would help using the Bible Dictionary, Topical Guide, True to the Faith, etc. You will need to run a quiz with your group to check everyone can explain each technical term.”
  • Artist – The artist could take the material presented and make a poster or slogan that summarizes the groups finding.  The poster could be a drawing, a flow chart, a graph, or nicely illustrated text.

The roles in your small groups will vary according to the material you’re studying. Generally, small groups are not larger than 5 students. Your class may consist of only one small group. If your class is small, consider inviting in a trusted adult or another classroom to hear your class presentation. This type of study may occur over multiple class periods so that students may have time to prepare and present material. (See http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/methods.html and the document 25 Ways for Teaching Without Talking at http://GeoffPetty.com/)

Great for: Eliciting thoughtful responses, Giving every person a turn, Helping shy students participate, Helping students find meaning in the scriptures, Teaching students to use study helps

Class size: Any class size

Helps Students: SEARCH the scriptures or text, SHARE feelings, thoughts, or personal experiences

Prep Time: 

Student Age: Any age

Equipment needed: 

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