Roles, Matrices, and Equity

I had the good fortune of attending a wedding recently (congratulations Dan and Candice!) that offered me the chance to strike up conversations with new acquaintances. One of these conversations was with Pat, a leader at a large STEM firm in Minneapolis. He was very interested in what steps we’ve taken as a district and region to support STEM instruction and prepare students for careers. He shared his perspective on what students need in order to thrive in the workforce.

Pat talked about the need for students to develop project management and delegation skills and to be able to talk about those during interviews and draw on those experiences as professionals. He stressed that particularly in a matrix environment, it’s critical that every employee have some level of leadership ability and experience. An employee might be the leader on one project and a follower on another project happening at the same time. Delegation and communication skills are critical in this environment.

matrix organizational structure

While I have experiences in my own classroom with group projects that involved specific roles, I often did the delegation for students. When students were able to delegate to one another, not every student had the opportunity to be in the role of delegator. From an equity standpoint, we need to take intentional steps to give every student the opportunity to develop these skills, and then to provide them with feedback regarding their growth.

Making sure that every student has leadership opportunities throughout each year is going to have complications. Some students might not want to be leaders right now, product quality might suffer, and our results might be less certain. But if we want all of our students to be college and career ready, we have to make sure that each student has had the opportunities necessary to succeed.


Looking for help developing roles for students in groups?

Edutopia – suggestions for those just getting started with student roles

POGIL – Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning: these structures are designed for high school and undergraduate science classrooms but may serve as inspiration for other grade levels and content areas

STEMscopes – several PBL structures within the curriculum use student roles, including the linked role sheet for a 4th grade engineering task (used with permission)



Interested in learning more about matrix organizational structures?

Cleverism – Bureaucratic vs. Matrix Organizational Structures

Harvard Business Review – Making Matrix Organizations Actually Work




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