Analytic Teams (ALC)

Active Learning

This KB document is part of a larger collection of documents on active learning activities that take place in Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). More Active Learning documents

Using Analytic Teams activities to facilitate problem-solving skills in Active Learning Classrooms

Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Medium
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Medium


Analytic Teams have members of a group assume roles and perform tasks while critically reading an assignment. Roles such as summarizer, connector, proponent, or critic focus on activities within an analytic process. It can be particularly useful when the teacher assigns roles that exist within the norms of the discipline.


Use it when you want...

  • Students to understand the different activities that constitute a critical analysis,
  • To focus on learning and to perform one aspect at a time,
  • To prepare students for more complex problem-solving assignments in which they may assume multiple roles, or
  • To increase and equalize participation levels among group members.

What students will need

  • Laptop, tablet, or mobile phone
  • Classroom with campus wireless connection


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate an Analytic Teams learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom.


  • Select an assignment that requires an analytical process. Break the process down into parts:
    Proponents: List the points you agreed with and state why.
    Critics: List the points you disagreed with or found unhelpful and state why.
    Example-Givers: Give examples of key concepts presented.
    Summarizers: Prepare a summary of the essential points.
    Questioners: Prepare a list of substantive questions about the material.
  • Determine whether you could perform each assigned role and whether each is sufficiently challenging.
  • Assign each table to read, view, or experience a piece of content from one of the five parts of the analytic process (proponents, critics, example-giver, summarize, and/or questioner). Tell students to come to class prepared to share the results of their work.
  • Create a Google Docs that has a section for each part of the analytic process and a place for each table to report their results. 
  • To share a document in Google Drive, select Share from the drop-down menu.
  • In the Get Link box, select UW-Madison G Suite to specify that users will need to use their UW-Madison Google Apps account to view the document. You make need to select the Change link below the words "Anyone at/on .....can view". Note: This setting will require students to use their UW-Madison account to access this document. This will make sure you can identify students by their official names, instead of their personal Google accounts, which may not be identifiable.


  • Share the URL for the Google Doc.
  • At each table, have the team assign one person as the scribe who enters the results into the Google Doc.
  • Give teams class time for members to share their findings and collate the results into their space in the shared Google Doc.
  • Upon completion of the activity, have each table per process report the results — (all tables assigned Prononents, then all tables assigned Critics, etc.).
  • Students can review the shared Google Docs as a summary of the activity.


  • Review student analysis of findings from the Google Doc.
  • Provide feedback/grade to the group or individual based on the quality of analysis.
  • Summarize student performance in the next class. Tell them how these skills will affect their future work, and make suggestions on how students can improve their analytic process.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


Example 1

In General Biology, the professor wants to help students think critically about the connections between biology and sociology. He uses Analytic Teams to help. As he reviewed the course, he identified a particular topic and three to five articles addressing the topic from different perspectives. In the unit dealing with development and reproduction, he assigns students a collection of articles describing new technologies that make it possible for doctors to save babies born sixteen weeks prematurely. He explains that the articles come from a variety of sources (including religious, medical, and insurance industry) and represent a range of viewpoints on the topic. Students from each table are told to review one article from a specific part of the following analytic process: 

  1. Perspective — unwarranted assumptions, an either/or outlook, absolutism, relativism, and bias;
  2. Procedure — Considerations of evidence, double standard, hasty conclusions, over-generalization, stereotyping, and over-simplification;
  3. Expression — Contradiction, arguing in circles, meaningless statements, mistaken authority, false analogy, and irrational appeals; and
  4. Reaction — Changing the subject, shifting the burden of proof, creating a straw man, and attacking the critic.  In class, students are asked to use this role as they review the article.

Groups spent thirty minutes discussing their analysis with one another. Upon completion of the assignment, the instructor asks each table to report its results. The activity not only gets students engaged in a deeper consideration of the topic but also helped improve their skills in the identification of strong and weak arguments — something that will serve them well in the future (Modified from Barkley 251).

Example 2

In his Organizational Theory course, the professor has developed several online modules on the following decision-making models:

  1. rational choice,
  2. incremental bargaining,
  3. bounded rationality, and
  4. means-end hierarchy.

To help students understand these models fully, he creates an Analytic Teams activity. He assigns each table one of the four models and gives them a case study detailing a complex situation that requires a decision. Students at each table should review the case as if they were a consultant to the organization in the case. Each table is to report its decision-making model, describe how it might be applied to the case, and suggest a solution based on that model. Students argue their cases and decide which solution they would adopt to guide their decision-making process, along with a rationale for why it was the best choice (Modified from Barkley 251-252).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 249-254.

See Also:

Keywords:analytic teams, problem-solving, problem solving   Doc ID:118481
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2022-05-10 15:01 CDTUpdated:2023-02-01 09:39 CDT
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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