PY 205 Physics for Scientists and Engineers 1 (SCALE-UP Version)

Role Definitions

It is best to assign specific duties to each student in a group (on a rotating basis so everyone practices every skill). 

When completing a hands-on activity, the standard roles are Manager, Recorder, and Skeptic/Checker. If the group has a fourth member, they can be a Summarizer.  The expectations for teammates in these roles are described in the table below.  

See the University of Minnesota’s web pages, which is where much of this material originated, if you want all the gory details as to why cooperative learning works.  You are also welcome to view (obviously contrived) movies of a functional and dysfunctional group. See if you can find all the things that are right/wrong in the videos and identify who has which role, at least for the functioning group.

  Recorder Skeptic or Questioner Manager or Organizer Summarizer

Whiteboard Problems



  • Writes actual steps on the whiteboard

  • Checks for understanding of all group members

  • Makes sure all group members agree on each step of the problem

Sounds like:
“Do we agree that this drawing is accurate?”

“Before I go on, do we all understand what is written so far?”

“I’m hearing more than one idea. I’m not sure what to write. Can we agree on how to proceed?”

  • Makes sure all possible problem-solving strategies are explored

  • Suggests alternative approaches or concerns with suggested processes
  • Provides reasoning and explanations of steps to group members as necessary.

Sounds like:
“Can we visualize this problem differently?”

“ Does anyone want me to explain what’s helpful about this diagram?”

“It feels like we’re spinning our wheels. Let’s take another look at this previous step.”

  • Directs the sequence of steps in the problem

  • Manages time

  • Reinforces the merits of everyone’s ideas

  • Ensures that each group member participates

Sounds like:
“Does anyone have an idea what approach we could take for this problem?”

“We have to move on. If we have time, we’ll come back to this discussion later.”

“That’s an interesting idea. Does anyone else have a suggestion before we evaluate it?”

  • Summarizes solution and group’s discussion of attaining the solution.

  • Maintains group’s energy while solving the problem through encouragement, humor, enthusiasm, etc.

Sounds like:
“So, we started with the fundamental principle of momentum, and proceeded to …”

“You have a very insightful idea.”

“We are doing well; we almost have the answer!”




  • Monitors and records experimental data

  • Ensures that all group members agree with experimental results

  • Verifies that all group members understand experiment plan and results.

  • Submits lab reports for the team

Sounds like:
“Does everyone agree with this plot?”

“Is everyone ready to begin the experiment?”

“Does everyone understand what concept this experiment is covering, and how it is used?”

“Does everyone understand how to run the experiment?”

“Does everyone agree with the lab report?”

  • Ensures that data interpretation is correct

  • Suggests alternate methods or interpretations of the experiment

  • Questions experimental results and understanding of experiment plans.

  • Ensures all facets of the experiment’s questions and results are explored

Sounds like:
“I believe the data plot should look it this.”

“Should the experiment apparatus act like that? How do we expect it to act? Why is it acting differently?”

“Could we interpret the data in another fashion?”

“Are we accounting for all factors?”

“Are we using the correct units?”

  • Outlines the experiment procedure for the group.

  • Manages time

  • Keeps group on task

  • Supports participation from all team members.

Sounds like:
“Henry, why don’t you monitor the data display while Sue and I initiate the experiment?”

“We need to wrap up this experiment in order to have enough time to discuss the questions.”

“Once we have finished the first part of the experiment, we should keep the equipment set up for the second part.”

  • Summarizes the experiment’s plan and results

  • Keeps the team’s energy at a high level using encouragement, humor, enthusiasm, etc.

Sounds like:
“To recap, the experiment referenced the energy principle, and by…”

“I see that we are on the right track. Good job everyone!”

VPython Programs
  • Types the code

  • Makes sure the group agrees with the types code

Submits program for the group

Sounds like:
“Does everyone agree how I typed the position update formula?”

“How can I use an updated form of velocity in the code?”

“Does it make sense to include this in the while loop?”

  • Debugs the program

  • Thinks of alternative ways to code or express the code

Sounds like:
“Shouldn’t there be a period between v and x?”

“Are there too many parenthesis on that line?

“Is the scale of that arrow too small?”

“What about expressing rmag like this?”

  • Direct sequence of steps with pseudo code outline

  • Keep the group focused

  • Ensure full participation by team
    Manage time

Sounds like:
“Let’s start with an outline of the code and organize.”

While we’re waiting to be checked off, let’s begin the next section.”

“Does everyone understand why the object is moving the way it is on screen?”

  • Summarizes the group’s discussion and conclusions

  • When group motivation is low, use humor, enthusiasm, or suggest a new idea to energize the group

Sounds like:
“Ha, that cart flew off the track!”

“That is a beautiful figure eight!”

“So, here’s what we’ve decided on the layout of the code…”

“Let’s become rocket scientists!”



©2018 by Robert J. Beichner