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Analytic Teams (ALC)

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 within the discipline's norms.


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 to guide how to 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-givers, summarizers, and/or questioners). Tell students to come to class prepared to share the results of their work.
  • Create a Google Doc 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 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 ensure 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 completing 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 the 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 industries) 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.  Students are asked to use this role in class as they review the article.

Groups spent thirty minutes discussing their analysis with one another. Upon completing 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 helps 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.

He created an Analytic Teams activity to help students fully understand these models. 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 reports its decision-making model, describes how it might be applied to the case, and suggests a solution based on that model. Students argue their cases and decide which solution 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.

Keywordsanalytic teams, problem-solving, problem solvingDoc ID118481
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-05-10 15:01:20Updated2024-04-16 12:40:22
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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