Peer Assessment that Improves Performance in Groups
June 1, 2014
Peer assessment in groups has been shown to effectively address a number of group process issues, but only if the peer assessment has a formative component. Many studies have shown that if peer assessment is ...
Ah-ha Moments—When Cooperative Learning in the Classroom Works
May 1, 2014
Goals for my First-Year Seminar students include proficiency with a host of study skills as well as course content based on what we call “learning about learning.” To support new college students in understanding what, ...
Does It Matter What We Call It?
March 1, 2014
Instructional strategies acquire names, labels that describe what the strategy involves—active learning, problem-based learning, cooperative learning. Sometimes the strategies gain popularity. They become widely used, and so do the terms that describe them. After a ...
Cooperative Learning Structures and Deep Learning
February 1, 2014
Empirical studies of various sorts have verified that cooperative learning events are related to higher academic achievement more so than are competitive, individualistic learning environments. That doesn't mean that students always endorse the use of ...
Use Team Charters to Improve Group Assignments
December 1, 2013
A recent and excellent article that proposes a model for “building teams that learn” recommends that teachers have students develop a team charter early in their interaction. “Completing a team charter encourages team members to ...
Teaching Online With Errol: A Mini-Guide to Successfully Using Groups in the Online Classroom, Part II: Overcoming Group Problems
July 1, 2013
The dynamics involved in each online student group working toward its goal of an A-worthy project are complex. So many components must mesh smoothly, and because of this each group is ripe for any number ...
Improving Group Projects
June 1, 2013
Many faculty now have students do some graded work in groups. The task may be, for example, preparation of a paper or report, collection and analysis of data, a presentation supported with visuals, or creation ...
Laziness and Apathy Are Not the Only Reasons Students Don’t Pull Their Weight in Groups
June 1, 2013
Faculty and students are equally concerned about and frustrated with students who don't do their fair share of work in groups. For faculty, it's a concern that prevents them from using group work. With five, ...
Teaching Online With Errol: A Mini-Guide to Successfully Using Groups in the Online Classroom
June 1, 2013
The group or collaborative project is becoming de rigueur in many online courses. Its purpose is not simply to have students work together for a joint grade and end project but also to develop essential ...
Assessing Team Members
April 1, 2013
Teachers who use group work frequently incorporate some sort of peer assessment activity as a means of encouraging productive interactions within the group. If part of the grade for the group work depends on an ...
Peer assessment in groups has been shown to effectively address a number of group process issues, but only if the peer assessment has a formative component. Many studies have shown that if peer assessment is used at the end of a group project, group members will punish their dysfunctional members—those who didn't do work, didn't turn work in on time, didn't come to meetings, and didn't do quality work—but they won't confront those group members when they commit those dysfunctional behaviors. After-the-fact peer assessment gives the teacher input on who did and didn't contribute in the group, but it doesn't change what happened in that group or help students learn how to confront group member problems when they emerge.
Faculty members Anson and Goodman describe an online peer assessment system they developed that can be administered efficiently, provides quality feedback, and fosters effective team processes. Details for setting up and using the system are laid out in the article. Group members respond to four questions sets, including open and closed questions about the performance of each individual group member, and open and closed questions about how the group is functioning. Group members give each other feedback that is task focused—it's about how the group member is performing tasks, not feedback about personal characteristics. The group member questions include these, among others: attends team meetings, communicates and responds promptly to team members, meets deadlines and completes assigned work, and listens and respectfully considers teammates' ideas and opinions.
Group members get a printed report with their closed question data results and suggestions made by their team members (anonymously). They also get averaged ratings for the questions on overall team functioning. In some cases these materials were received electronically; other times they were distributed in class, and students were given a few minutes to read them silently. Then, and this may be the most interesting and valuable part of the process, teams convened and had a 10- to 15-minute improvement discussion. Based on the feedback they were provided, they talked about what they were doing well as a team, what they were doing poorly, and the top three things they should start doing differently. Team members took notes during this discussion and those were transformed into the team's process improvement plan.
The courses where this system was used involved “extended, multi-phased projects.” (p. 28) One involved a complex senior capstone course project. The teams in these courses engaged in three rounds of this team improvement process. The collected data show that three team processes stood out as strengths for most of the teams: “assigning tasks to all members, focusing criticisms on ideas instead of on people, and the team's ability to assess itself.” (p. 31) And there was one weakness, a perennial for groups of all sorts: “completes work before last-minute deadlines.” (p. 32)
The article contains sample peer reports for individual group members and for the teams, along with the various question sets and many more details on how the authors implemented the system in their courses. It's an interesting system that provides individuals and groups with good formative feedback. Even more noteworthy, the activity has been designed so that groups must confront the feedback and make some decisions about how they will respond. Students are being taught that problems within a group can be constructively resolved in ways that benefit the group and the work it's completing.
Anson, R., and Goodman, J.A. (2014). A peer assessment system to improve student team experiences. Journal of Education for Business, 89 (1), 27-34.