Publish at October 06 2019 Updated November 03 2021

The Importance of Roles in Teamwork

The Key Question: Who Does What?

New businesses operate more with a collective vision. They require agility, especially in IT fields, and that everyone brings to their role the precise energy to result in an effective and attractive product.

Consequently, schools too must then adopt similar approaches to prepare students for a changing job market calling for more collective skills. Thus, in a renewed pedagogy, teamwork is much more common.

From Group to Team

The challenge is to turn a group of learners into a team of learners. A group is a cluster of individuals with little or no knowledge of each other who must work together. A team, on the other hand, operates on a strong knowledge of strengths and weaknesses and evolves in such a way that everyone contributes their effort to a common project. Thus, a class may never become a team. And in itself, this does not mean that the work done will be poor.

Or, if a teacher seeks to create team dynamics, he or she will necessarily have to accompany the students in building their team. And this inevitably involves the distribution of roles. A task that must be done by the learners but the teacher must ensure that the tasks are fairly distributed.

Already, leadership in teams must be noted. As this Montreal HEC page reminds us, someone facilitating meetings is not necessarily a born leader. He or she can be, but generally, leadership is noted by those able to help the team achieve goals and foster harmony among members. Consequently, there can be several leaders, some more expert in the field and others in the organization of work or social cohesion. Those who motivate others should also be encouraged rather than belittled.

Various Roles

The same HEC site lists different roles in a team. Usually, a "shoe" worn by one individual can be shared in the case of large teams. In smaller ones, some will possibly wear more than one "shoe":

  • the facilitator who designs the agenda facilitates the meetings, and ensures a harmonious climate;
  • the scribe who takes note of what is said and organizes the necessary documents for the work;
  • the spokesperson who will be a representative for the team to other groups or the teacher;
  • the time master who determines and ensures the timeliness of the various items on the agenda;
  • the organizer who will ensure the best times to meet;
  • the devil's advocate who will respectfully challenge group thoughts to prevent better ideas from being extinguished by sheer force of numbers;
  • the project manager who will ensure that the timeline is met and that everyone has done their tasks.

Of course, some roles will be less important depending on the context. For example, the organizer would be less essential if the team is always working during allocated class times. Nevertheless, the important thing is that no one is confused about who does what. As suggested on this site, the best teams put in place documents that clearly show who is responsible for a task, who makes sure it gets done, who can be consulted for advice on the work, and finally an individual who will need to be updated on everything that goes on with the project.

Sure, these are professional principles that aren't always easy to translate back to the classroom, but they can be an outline to think about, modify, and share with students. All with a very specific goal: to develop a team spirit in them.

Illustration: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay


Karmann, Marine. " Accompagner Les Groupes D’étudiant·e·s : Passer Du Travail En Groupe à L’apprentissage En équipe." Pedagogical Innovation. Last updated: September 5, 2019.

"Leadership — Attribuer des rôles." HEC Montreal. Retrieved October 5, 2019.

"Roles And Their Benefits - Assigning Roles." HEC Montreal. Retrieved October 5, 2019.

Raza, Muhammad. "Agile Roles and Responsibilities." BMC Blogs. Last updated May 13, 2019.

Windsor, Grace. "7 Habits of Effective Project Teams." Last updated August 21, 2019.

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