Teamwork has many advantages and can have a positive affect on the learning environment. The affects can include development of social behavioral skills, promotion of inclusive participation, development of critical thinking, motivating students from a passive to a more active learner, and/or students can learn from their peers. Teamwork is one of the skills most sought after by employers. How well will someone contribute to the job and how well will they fit in with the overall team to create success for the business. Building teamwork in a classroom can be more beneficial for learners as it is cited as being more representative of real world work.
By the same token, with the advantages of teamwork also comes challenges, primarily being weaker individuals who do not participate and contribute to the group, yet can reap the rewards of the group’s success. One of the possibilities to address this is by introducing student Self and Peer Assessment (SAPA). SAPA can motivate learners in that they are being assessed individually as well as being part of the overall group. Advocates of peer assessment feel that when students know they are being assessed on their contribution to the project, there will be more motivation to contribute and can help in improving one’s own performance. Assessments can be:
- Qualitative and/or Quantitative
- Formative and/or Summative
- Informal and/or Formal
- Periodic or One-off
In the teamwork example cited by Tucker, Fermelis and Palmer, they discuss peer feedback and assessment and individualization of the team mark if there is evidence of unequal contributions from team members. Throughout the assignment, individuals were required to make regular ratings of their own and peers contributions. From the description, I found this to be a fair system. Students know in advance that their contribution to the project or team will count and that should they not contribute, their team grade, not the full team grade, will be affected.
Thinking about this in relationship to online learning vs. face-to-face/traditional learning environment, I have found that while it is possible to do team projects via online learning, it is quite a challenge. In the face-to-face environments, when I was assigned to a team project, often during the class time we were able to break out into our groups. We were able to make arrangements either before or after a class to work on it as well. In the online environment, with everyone checking in at different times to the course, it was more challenging. In one project, trying to decide on the actual topic took about a full week. Once that was decided on, and the tasks were divided, it went more smoothly. This may have been alleviated if we tried to set aside one particular time during the week to chat at the same time. For the assignment, we did not do individual assessments of our peers, we just needed to provide a general reflection of working as a team and then our own individual contribution. Because of the way the project was set up, it was actually somewhat easy to tell the work involved from each person’s area. Each person would have received fair assessments on this particular project, I feel, because it was broken up that everyone had to contribute.
Tucker, R., Fermelis, J., & Palmer, S. Designing, Implementing an Evaluating a Self-and-Peer Assessment Tool for E-Learning Environments. In C. Spratt, & P. Lajbcygier, E-Learning Technologies and Evidence-Based Assessment Approaches (218-233). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.