Home | Courses | Middle School | Brain-Based Learning | Thinking Skills | Publications | Resources

Brief History
The Philosophy
Psychological Development
Instructional Practices
Cooperative Learning Structures
Communication Skills
Roles & Responsibilities
Classroom Design Patterns


Lecture | Questioning/Discussion | Team Teaching | Thematic Teaching | Integrated Curriculum | Cooperative Learning

This section of the cooperative learning module focuses on the roles and responsibilities for effective group learning. There are at least four key roles, and it is important that each member of the group understands their role, which means you, as the teacher, need to constantly remind group members of their roles, have them discuss what the roles are and the responsibilities of each role, and have them "role play" their roles. Additionally, it is important that group members be continuously reminded to be good listeners, be responsible, and work at building consensus in the group.

This is especially important in the middle grades. You always have to remember that just because you've introduced each role (or communication skill), the students have practiced them, and seem to understand them, that the next day or the next week (perhaps even the next minute), they may not have a clue. Even though it may seem repetitious (and boring) for you and the students, they need to constantly practice and know their roles. Also, typically, there is a great deal of cross over (everyone in the group doing each other's roles at the same time), which is okay. The key is that everyone knows their role and "plays" their role when it is appropriate.

Group roles can be identified in a variety of ways, but we will refer to them as "leader," "reporter," "monitor," and "consensus builder." These are the main roles, and each person in the group needs to be assigned one of the roles. When the groups are first put together, the manner in which roles are assigned is up to you, as long as each group member has a role. In the event a group has five members, the fifth member is the "wild card." It is also important to rotate the roles, probably every two to three weeks (or as you think appropriate), so each member of the group has an opportunity to be a leader, or a recorder, or a gatherer, or a consensus builder. The roles are explained below.


The responsibility of the leader is to make sure all group members understand the task, and stay on task. The main "job" of the leader is to keep the group focused, but in a diplomatic way so as to lead to consensus.


The reporter has the responsibility of keeping track of (recording) the groups discussion, the decisions made by the group and report those decisions to the total group, i.e., the class.


The monitor has two responsibilities. First, the monitor makes certain that the group's area stays clean and orderly, especially after the group has finished its work for the period. Also, the monitor has the responsbility of being the group's "go-for" person. Whenever materials are needed, the monitor is the person who "goes for" them. That way there is only one person moving around from each group (or at least there should be only one person moving around) instead of four. It keeps the confusion down.

Consensus Builder

The consensus builder has the responsibility of helping the group reach agreement. The leader is also a consensus builder, but the main role of the leader is to make sure the group stays focused, and to get the group back on task when it begins to wander. The consensus builder helps in summarizing the discussion and keeps reminding the group that they need to reach agreement, especially if there seems to be disagreement.

The Wild Card

When there are five members in a group, one is designated the "wild" card. This person's role is to assist the leader in keeping the group focused on its task. Also, the "wild" card member can be designated the "leader in training."