Monthly Archives: September 2011

Assessing Group Work

The first week of school, I gave my students a survey about how they can best show me what they are learning, and a large majority suggested group work. Now, I’ve never been much of a fan of group work. I remember scrambling to draw a picture about a Jack London story in 9th grade because my partner decided not to do his part; I’ve been the “victim” of the group paper with plagiarized material twice…I just hate group work. However, it’s only fair to listen to my students when I ask for their input.

My journey into preparing group work has been ok at best. One on hand, I’m thankful for the group work because some ELL students that speak the same language can work together and help each other. Also, it means less work for me to grade! However, I know that I need to really learn more about group work before I expect my students to learn effectively from it. A google search revealed the following article, and it gave me some insight as to how I could be presenting and grading these projects.

The article is titled “Assessing Group Work” and is an excerpt from “Assessing Learning in Australian Universities” written by James, R., McInnis, C., and Devlin, M. So here are a few things that stood out to me. Some may seem pretty simple, but important nonetheless!

  • students should be clear on the purpose and objective of the assignment
  • worries over group work often come from the assignment not be assessed or graded fairly
  • do not overuse the group project-type assignment
  • ensure that groups are working well together – students should spend time working on the project, not figuring out how to get along!
  • pros and cons of different grading methods: the article contains several charts showing the advantages and disadvantages of different grading methods (i.e. self-assessment, shared group grade, averaged grades, and so on.) Some of these I had never heard of…some I did not like at all, and others seemed rather interesting.

Bottom line for me: I’m going to work out something with my students to figure out what works best for them. I think I would prefer for them to use a combination of strategies where, for larger projects, students do some self-reporting and comment on the group as a whole (with the opportunity to mention if someone did more work than others). I will also assign a grade and average them together or combine them in some way. For future projects, I will be sure to include a rationale on why I chose this method of assessment and I will be sure to include a clear objective of what I want them to learn.

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Reflections

One of my goals for this semester is to take time to reflect on my class. This can be difficult because it’s not always fun. ¬†However, in an effort to become a better teacher and to push myself beyond what is comfortable, it is definitely a necessity! I will probably use this space primarily for reflection and research, as another one of my goals is to research and implement new assessment strategies and projects. My PNW class is made up of 13 students, ¬†8 of which are international students with limited English proficiency. I want to bring things into the classroom that will help them learn best. The class has expressed interest in doing group projects, so I have been trying to set up activities in a way that they can work together. My hope for this class is that I will be able to give them assignments that will allow them to “discover” the history of the Pacific Northwest rather than simply hearing me prattle on about it (which I could easily do – I love my home!)

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