Improving group work for students and educators
Enabling collaborative learning through meaningful activities and assessment is powerful, yet challenging.
There is evidence that collaboration among students can benefit learning. It is also crucial for achievement of the University’s Graduate Attribute 3 and employers rate teamwork and evaluative judgement skills highly. However, students may not always see the value of group work tasks and we cannot assume they will know how to collaborate effectively when placed in a group (Laurillard, 2012).
As outlined in this Groupwork Guide compiled by Learning and Teaching Community of Practice members, there are a number of effective and efficient strategies for designing and managing group work activities. The guide also includes templates for group contracts used by University of Adelaide educators and sample team work rubrics.
Using student evaluation of group processes to inform marking
One effective strategy for developing students' understanding of effective collaboration is for them to evaluate the contribution of their group members which then informs the allocation of grades to reflect individual student contribution. This promotes accountability and more appropriate student learning behaviour during group work tasks (Gibbs, 2016).
In 2021, Learning Enhancement and Innovation (LEI) collaborated with educators and the company FeedbackFruits to pilot a Group Member Evaluation tool to support collaborative learning. Integrating with MyUni (Canvas) groups, the Group Member Evaluation tool enables students to rate the performance of other group members and provide feedback. Educators can view student progress and make adjustments to individual grades.
In the pilot the tool enabled students to develop and demonstrate:
- teamwork and communication skills
- integrity and taking responsibility for their actions
- self-awareness and reflective practice
As a result of the successful pilot, the tool is available for educators wanting to improve the experience and learning of students through group work tasks.
Colleagues have shared their experience with using this tool, their advice, and plans for how they might use it in future.
We used the tool in S1 2021 in our Level II Computer Science Course. It was used as an alternative to SPLAT for peer evaluation of group members. We found it quite useful in this way, as it gave us more flexibility in the questions we asked, and presented the peer evaluation as an overall rating (give each member a score out of 10), rather than requiring students to ensure everything added up to 100%. We will be using it again this year.
Ian Knight, Lecturer, School of Computer Science
This is an application that allows teachers to customize class polling. Customization is simple and dynamic, anonymized or not, which may be useful in discovering unspoken learning, conflict/resolution, etc.
Professor Thomas Hajdu, Director of The Sia Furler Institute, Elder Conservatorium of Music
I did use it last year, but I’m not going to lie, it was tricky to manage. I have a large cohort of nearly 280 students, and it was hard to get through all of the sections. I used it in Nursing 3006 Nursing in Complex Settings: Maternity and Paediatrics. I used it for our problem-based learning sessions where students had to provide feedback on their peers in their group. I didn’t make it compulsory for the students to use as it was just a trial. Those that used it liked it and I certainly love the concept of it and would love to keep using it. I would suggest getting plenty of face-to-face training on how to use it with large cohorts.
Elyce Kenny, Lecturer and Course Coordinator, Adelaide Nursing School
Assuring individual accountability is crucial in group assessments, particularly to provide an authentic learning experience. Based on the success of the initial pilot results in 2021, the Group Evaluation tool in Feedback Fruits will be trialled in the Adelaide Business School as a way to obtain feedback on the individual contributions during group assessments. This is one of the ways through which we are expecting to increase individual accountability.
Dr Manjula Dissanayake, Academic Director – Entrepreneurship, Adelaide Business School
See the Groupwork Evaluation Tool webpage for principles and guidelines.
LEI will run a series of workshops via Zoom to familiarise you with the Group Evaluation tool and discuss how it can enhance the collaborative learning experiences in your course.
If you think the Group Evaluation tool will support student learning in your course, you can book a consultation with a Learning Designer.
Gibbs, G. (2016). The assessment of group work: lessons from the literature. Assessment Knowledge Exchange (ASKe). Oxford Brooks University. Available from: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/uploads/production/document/path/2/2425/Asse… Accessed 4/5/21
Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. Available from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com. Accessed 28/4/21