The Captain System

What is the captain system?

The captain system is a kind of group work in which students work together on a weekly basis in groups of three to six people. In each class session, one group member is appointed as captain.

The captain may be assigned various roles:

  • The captain first tries to solve any problems or answer any questions within the group by summarizing them and then discussing them together. 
  • The captain is the only point of contact between the group and the lecturer/assistant. If certain matters are not resolved by the group, only the captain may ask the lecturer questions.
  • The captain is allowed to compare the results of his/her own group to those of other groups and therefore has the permission to walk around among the other groups. S/he then compares the observed results with the results of his/her own group and this is critically evaluated by the whole group.
  • The captain is responsible for efficient time management and sees to it that the available time is put to good use.
  • The captain takes the lead. The captain is responsible for a successful cooperation between all group members: the captain coordinates, asks questions and involves all team members.

It is recommended that the captain does not take the minutes as well. S/he verifies whether the minutes are complete and goes through the written report together with the group, but does not write it him/herself.

How to use?

  • The students form groups of three to six people. The group composition does not change throughout the semester.
  • In each group, a new captain is appointed every week. The lecturer may appoint someone captain, or the group members may do this themselves. See to it that students do not take 10 minutes deciding who is going to be captain. You can do this by asking students to give you the names of their captains a day or a week before the practical.
  • Notes and exercises are handed out to all students, not just the captain. That way, everyone knows what is expected of him/her.


The lecturer may choose to ask the captain some questions at the end of the class session. Assess the performance of the entire group and also give feedback to the whole group. In other words, the whole group gets the same mark.

Peer assessment may be used to evaluate the captain system. In this case, the students assess the captain’s performance.


This system has multiple advantages, for students as well as lecturers.

The lecturer:

  • does not have to answer the same questions again and again. Only after the students have tried to come up with an answer within their groups can the captain ask the lecturer questions. This allows the lecturer to spend more time answering questions.
  • can engage in formative assessment much more easily (by asking questions orally), because s/he only has to keep track of the captains’ progress. After all, they are responsible for making sure that everyone within their group understands everything.

The students:

  • are given the opportunity to see the results (e.g. preparations) of their fellow group members. Through the captain, they may also observe the results of other groups. In this process, it is important that the captain monitors the quality of all these results and makes his/her fellow group members aware of any differences in quality.
  • gain more insight because they can discuss the material with their classmates.  
  • As a matter of fact, the entire group can obtain marks because the captain gives the lecturer information. In other words, it is essential that the group works together well and that all members have an equal command of the material.


Last modified Oct. 14, 2020, 2:16 p.m.