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1. An effective teacher/instructor with skills in:
(c) Developing instructional strategies

Group Project

One of the difficulties with group projects is finding a strategy for getting all members of the group to make a fair contribution to the group project, and finding a way to identify and appropriately assess that contribution.  How do you determine that one student has worked hard and pulled his/her weight while another has made very little contribution to the team?  And perhaps more importantly, how do you encourage all of the members of a group to put in their fair share of the effort?

I used three different student-generated measures to assess contribution, with peer assessment and instructor feedback to encourage full participation in the project.

  1. Have the students score all the members of their team, including themselves, on a scale of 1-7.
  2. Have the students explain why they gave those scores.
  3. Have the students distribute 100 points among all the members of their team.

For the first two of these, I asked the students to submit their responses every 2 or 3 weeks, according to a schedule that was given in the course syllabus, using a web form I set up for the purpose.  On the form, I asked two questions:

Q1. Please indicate how well you feel each team member is contributing to the overall group project.
Q2. Please indicate how well you feel each team member is carrying out his/her “primary responsibilities”.

The students were first asked to give a rating on a 7-point Likert scale (explained at the bottom of the form) answering each of the two questions for each member of the team, including themselves.  Then they were asked to write comments on why they gave the scores they gave, and their suggestions on what ought be done differently.

After all the students had entered their responses into the web. which recorded them in my database, I ran a Microsoft Access application to review their scores and comments, and record my feedback comments.  Then I did a merge to email and sent each student a progress update along with the specific comments I had recorded for them in my database.  Here is the Access screen corresponding to the web form, showing comments I entered for this student.

I used the scores the students assign to make up a certain part of each student's grade, but I knew there was sometimes a tendency to just award everyone in the team the maximum score of 7, regardless of how well they were performing.  So I used several mechanisms in an attempt to overcome this tendency.

  1. The comments students entered in the web form.  While a student may be reluctant to give low scores, they were often more frank in the comments they wrote.  I used this a one of the inputs for determining assigning the 12 marks I reserved for my personal observations on a student's performance.
  2. Feedback to the class during our weekly meetings.  I would make general comments to the class during our weekly meetings.  One of my objectives in giving this feedback was to motivate individuals to contribute fairly to the team project, and another was to encourage the students to hold each other accountable to the team.
  3. Distribute 100 marks among all the members of the team.  In spite of all this, some people were still giving the benefit of the doubt to slack members of them team, denying to themselves that they had a "free-rider" in their group, or hoping the slack member might still measure up.  So after the last submission of the semester had been entered, I asked them to do one more thing, and that was to take 100 marks and distribute them among the members of the team according to how they were earned.  I had another web form for them to use for this, and some students took the opportunity to assign marks more on the basis of merit than of kindness.

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Created: Tuesday, February 20, 2000 04:55 PM
Last Modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 9:12 AM