Effective Student Collaboration

Effective Student Collaboration

Effective Student Collaboration

Effective student collaboration depends on group members’ ability to recognize and to adopt various roles. Students need to be able to recognize behavior that may be hindering the group. They must also be able to adopt roles that assist the group with its task as well as those that promote harmony among the members.

There is an alternate view on how to deal with roles in a group. It suggests that some basic roles should be assigned to members of the group by the teacher. Here are some examples.


  • Leader/Editor: This student is in charge of organizing the final product of the project, be it a paper, a presentation, etc.
  • Recorder/Secretary: This person takes notes whenever the group meets and keeps track of group data/sources/etc.
  • Checker: Someone needs to double-check data, bibliographic sources, or graphics for accuracy and correctness.
  • Spokesperson/Press Secretary/Webmaster

Shared Leadership Approach to Effective Student Collaboration

Shared Leadership, on the other hand,  is a dynamic model which suggests that group members can assume different roles at different times depending on the group’s immediate needs. There are both positive and negative roles and these can be assumed by various group members at various times. Here is a list of these roles. You can find a detailed explanation of these roles here.

Task Roles

These are the roles that relate to getting the work done. They represent the different roles needed to take a project step-by-step from initial conception through to action. Individuals may fill several of these roles during the life of a project.

  • Initiator/Contributor
  • Information Seeker
  • Information Giver
  • Opinion Seeker
  • Opinion Giver
  • Elaborator
  • Co-ordinator
  • Orienter
  • Evaluator/Critic
  • Energizer
  • Procedural Technician
  • Recorder

Personal and/or Social Roles

These roles contribute to the positive functioning of the group.

  • Encourager
  • Harmonizer
  • Compromiser
  • Gatekeeper/Expediter
  • Observer/Commentator
  • Follower

Dysfunctional and/or Individualistic Roles

These roles disrupt group progress and weaken its cohesion.

  • Aggressor
  • Blocker
  • Recognition Seeker
  • Self-Confessor
  • Disrupter/Playboy or Playgirl
  • Dominator
  • Help Seeker
  • Special Interest Pleader

With a basic understanding of these roles students can recognize disruptive behavior and offer positive responses. You could present this knowledge to them gradually in your introductions to learning activities. In this way students progressively build a positive attitude to group work, collaborate more effectively, and gain a valuable bonus from your course.

You should consider an understanding of effective student collaboration essential to your design of Active Learning Activities. Teachers who design a collaborative activity for their students have a responsibility to monitor group progress and to intervene, when necessary, with some helpful coaching.


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