Professional Development Module on Collaborative Learning

By Linda Brown and Vicky Lara, El Paso Community College

Purpose: The purpose of this self-paced annotated webliography is to identify the rationale, benefits, and challenges of collaborative learning in small-group activities and to provide faculty with tools to effectively develop, integrate, assess and evaluate collaborative activities

Module Objectives: Upon completion of this module, the participant will be able to:

  1. Define collaborative learning
  2. Identify the benefits of using collaborative learning activities
  3. Identify challenges in using collaborative learning approaches 
  4. Select and use the appropriate tools to effectively plan, develop, facilitate, assess and evaluate short and long-term small group collaborative activities
  5. Locate resources for further use in researching collaborative learning

Select from the following sections:


Section 1:  Collaborative Learning

    The terms Collaborative Learning and Cooperative Learning have become murky in popular usage, and often, distinctions are not made between the two. Collaborative Learning is the umbrella term encompassing many forms of collaborative learning from small group projects to the more specific form of group work called Cooperative Learning. Cooperative Learning is a type of Collaborative Learning developed by Johnson and Johnson in the 1960's and is still widely used today.

“Differences Between Collaborative and Cooperative Learning” from the University of California at Santa Barbara's Office of Instructional Consulting website: http://www.oic.id.ucsb.edu/Resources/Collab-L/Differences.html   

According to David and Roger Johnson of The Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota, cooperative learning includes five essential elements: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing. See their article "An Overview of Cooperative Learning" at: http://www.co-operation.org/pages/overviewpaper.html

Roberta Matthews, et. al., point out in their article "Building Bridges Between Cooperative and Collaborative Learning" (http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1254/is_n4_v27/ai_17382393) that the two strategies evolved separately:

    Followers of the two traditions have published in different journals, created bibliographies with few common names, sponsored different conferences, and for many years, had little contact with each other...
    Most of the well-known cooperative-learning researchers and theoreticians are educational or social psychologists or sociologists whose original work was intended for application at the K-12 level. Their primary research emphasis is on empirical comparisons of cooperative learning with other forms of instruction. Within the last decade, techniques have been extended and adapted at the college level, and many of the publications in the field offer practical advice. Cooperative learning tends to be more structured in its approach to small-group instruction, to be more detailed in advice to practitioners, and to advocate more direct training of students to function in groups than does collaborative learning....
    Collaborative learning theoreticians and practitioners tend to come from the humanities and social sciences. Their work often explores theoretical, political, and philosophical issues such as the nature of knowledge as a social construction and the role of authority in the classroom. Many are concerned with drawing strong connections between collaborative practice and feminist pedagogy. Collaborative learning practitioners are inclined to assume students are responsible participants who already use social skills in undertaking and completing tasks. Therefore students receive less instruction in group skills and roles and perform less structured reflection on group interaction than in cooperative-learning classrooms. 

The terms overlap in that both indicate that students will be working in groups. It can get confusing because the term collaborative learning will sometimes be used in higher education circles to designate the same practices that at the elementary and secondary level would be called cooperative learning.  Rather than dwell too long on semantics, let's look at some practical examples of  collaborative learning techniques.

Examples

Brainstorming:  Brainstorming is designed to generate a large number of ideas in a short period of time. For collaborative brainstorming, it is helpful to structure the activity as a roundtable/round-robin sharing of information:

  • Faculty poses question that has multiple answers/positions 
  • One piece of paper and pen per group. 
  • First student writes one response, and says it out loud. 
  • First student passes paper to the left, second student writes response, etc. 
  • Continues around group until time elapses. 
  • Students may say "pass" at any time. 
  • Group stops when time is called. (http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/methods.html#roundtable)

Case studies: Clyde Freeman Herreid (Case Studies in Science: A Novel Method of Science Education, http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/teaching/novel.html) describes case studies as educational stories used to teach students about their field, that are:

    typically written as dilemmas that give a personal history of an individual, institution, or business faced with a problem that must be solved. Background information, charts, graphs, and tables may be integrated into the tale or appended. The teacher's goal is to help the students work through the facts and analyze of the problem and then consider possible solutions and consequences of the actions that might take.

Visit the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science at http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/case.html for informative articles on how to develop and use case studies as a teaching tool.  Don't miss "What Makes a Good Case?"

Double-entry journal/ Paired annotations:  After students read and reflect on the assigned reading, they write their observations about the critical points and their responses to them in their journal.  In class, they swap journals with another student who has also read and made comments on the reading. The pair (or group) discusses the key points of the reading and looks for areas of agreement and disagreement.  Finally, the group "prepares a composite annotation that summarizes the article, chapter, or concept."  http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/methods.html#paired

Dyadic Essays:  Developed by L. W. Sherman, the dyadic essay confrontation (DEC) technique has students create an essay question on information previously covered in the course and compose the answer to the question as well. On a separate piece of paper, students write only the essay question. Barbara Millis describes the follow-up that occurs:

    Randomly-paired students exchange questions, spending about 20 minutes writing an answer--either closed or open book depending on the complexity of the material--to their partner's essay question. The two then read, compare, and discuss the four answers, looking in particular for the differences between the in-depth responses prepared before class and the spontaneously generated in-class responses. This structure promotes critical thinking by requiring students to confront differing ideas, offers writing-to-learn opportunities, and provides solid and immediate feedback to students about their intellectual responses to discipline-specific material.  http://www.utexas.edu/academic/cte/hewlettcls.html

Group reports: Rather than just having each group report its findings, consider structuring the process as a poster session in which each group creates an outline or concept map.  One person from the group serves as a spokesperson, explaining the poster as the rest of the group circulates to view the other groups' posters.  Rotate roles so that each group member has the opportunity to serve as the group's spokesperson.

Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning: This approach provides students with a series of generic, open-ended  questions designed to encourage synthesis, comparison/contrast, and extrapolation to other contexts within the context of a small-group discussion, as developed by Alison King (1993). "From sage on the stage to guide on the side." College Teaching, 41(1), and  (1995) "Guided peer questioning: a cooperative learning approach to critical thinking." Cooperative Learning and College Teaching, 5 (2), 15-19.   For an example, see:  http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/peerqst.htm.

Jigsaw: The jigsaw technique was first developed in the early 1970s by Elliot Aronson (http://www.jigsaw.org/overview.htm)
and his students at the University of Texas and the University of California. Jigsawing divides a problem or issue into parts--as many parts as their are members of a group.  Students who have been assigned the same piece of the puzzle join together temporarily as a focus group studying that piece.  The purpose of these focus groups is for the students to:

  • Master the concepts in their section, and 
  • Develop a strategy for teaching what they have learnd to the other students in their original collaborative learning group.

See http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/CL/doingcl/jigsaw.htm for a more complete description and variations on the jigsaw method.

Learning Community:  A learning community is the “purposeful restructuring of the curriculum to link together courses so
that students find greater coherence in what they are learning and increased interaction with faculty and fellow students” (Gabelnick, MacGregor, Matthews, and Smith, 1990). In their article, "What is Collaborative Learning?" Barbara Leigh Smith and Jean T. MacGregor explain the relationship between learning communities and collaborative learning:

    By altering the curricular structure to provide larger units of study, learning communities frequently provide more time and space for collaborative learning and other more complicated educational approaches. Small group workshops and book seminars are staples of most learning communities. Peer writing groups and team projects associated with labs and field work are also fairly common. Study groups emerge in learning communities, both intentionally and spontaneously.    http://learningcommons.evergreen.edu/pdf/collab.pdf

See also Jodi Levine’s article, “Beyond a Definition of Learning Communities” (p.5)

Online collaboration: Sarah Haavind of The Concord Consortium describes the best kind of e-learning or webcourse as having many of the same qualities as "a well-run seminar."  She continues:

    The key idea is that participants create their own learning through thoughtful conversation and collaboration, guided by a knowledgeable teacher who is expert in facilitating online groups. This design is pedagogically superior to other designs because it is based on social constructivist learning principles: having learners create their own understandings based on group conversations. When group-based learning is implemented online, inexpensive asynchronous technologies (typically, threaded discussion groups) are not only satisfactory, they are superior to synchronous ones. This online learning environment can be better than a seminar, because each participant has time to think about the conversation as it unfolds in slow-motion and to make thoughtful contributions.  http://www.concord.org/newsletter/2002winter/online_courses.html

For more information on making electronic collaboration, particularly through the use of asynchronous learning networks (ALNs) and computer-mediated communication systems (CMCS), more effective, see the following articles.

Kim, K., & Bonk, C. (2002). Cross-cultural comparisons of online collaboration. JCMC 8 (1). http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol8/issue1/kimandbonk.html

Benbunan-Fich, R. (1999)  Educational applications of CMCS: solving case studies through asynchronous learning networks. JCMC 4 (3).  http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol4/issue3/benbunan-fich.html

Gay, G. (1999). Document-centered peer collaborations: an exploration of the educational uses of networked communication technologies. JCMC 4 (3).  

Stacey, E. (1990). Collaborative learning in an online environment. Journal of Distance Education.

Position papers/structured academic controversies:In their book Creative Controversy: Intellectual Challenge in the Classroom and at their website http://www.co-operation.org/pages/academic.html, David and Roger Johnson describe the process of using academic controversy as:

    the instructional use of intellectual conflict to promote higher achievement and increase the quality of problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, reasoning, interpersonal relationships, and psychological health and well-being. To engage in an academic controversy students must research and prepare a position, present and advocate their position, refute opposing positions and rebut attacks on their own position, reverse perspectives, and create a synthesis that everyone can agree to.

Additionally, their website describe the steps an instructor must take in order to facilitate the use of structured academic controversies.  To see a sample exercise developed for an engineering class by Karl Smith, visit:  http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/CL/story/smithkar/TSKSD.htm.

Problem-Solving: Collaborative problem-solving usually requires more planning and more time.  Instructors cannot take for granted that their students will have a readily available protocol for solving problems, and must often outline a process or provide a checklist of steps.  The method by which groups are selected and roles assigned within those groups will need to be considered.  The task or problem to be studied and the criteria for measuring the accomplishment of the task  need to be clearly explained to the students.  The National Institute for Science Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, offers problem-solving models including Structured Problem-Solving, Discovery Method, Think-Pair-Square, Drill-Review Pairs, and Thinking Aloud Pair Problem-Solving for your consideration at: http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/prbsolv.htm

Send-a-problem: Send-A-Problem can be used as a way to get groups to discuss and review material, or potential solutions to problems related to content information. The process and one variation on it are described at this site: http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/methods.html#send

Teamwork: Often one of the motivations for using collaborative learning techniques is to prepare students for their experience in the workplace where they will, undoubtedly, be asked to work in teams at some point.  Successful teamwork requires a set of skills including communication and organization.  The College of Engineering at Bucknell University has developed an indepth Practical Guide to Teamwork that covers everything you need to know to get started.  Highly recommended!

Think-Pair-Share: This is a quick collaborative learning activity in which the instructor asks an open-ended question and then allows students about a minute to think about it.  Next, pairs of students discuss their ideas about the question or problem. Finally, the instructor solicits comments or other feedback such as a class vote regarding the question. For more details, see: http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/thinkps.htm


Section 2:  Benefits of Using Collaborative Learning Strategies

Johnson & Johnson largely base their examinations of instructional practices on social interdependence theory. For additional background, see http://www.co-operation.org/pages/SIT.html. As they explain it:

When individuals take action there are three ways what they do may be related to the actions of others. One's actions may promote the success of others, obstruct the success of others, or not have any effect at all on the success or failure of others. In other words, individuals may be: 1) Working together cooperatively to accomplish shared learning goals; 2) Working against each other (competitively)to achieve a goal that only one or a few can attain; 3) Working by oneself (individualistically) to accomplish goals unrelated to the goals of others.

Their review of educational research since 1898 demonstrates that:

... cooperation, compared with competitive and individualistic efforts, typically results in higher achievement and greater productivity; more caring, supportive, and committed relationships; and greater psychological health, social competence, and self esteem.  http://www.co-operation.org/pages/cl.html#why

In statistical analyses comparing the various studies, they found that the average person cooperating performed at about 2/3 a standard deviation above the average person learning within a competitive (effect size = 0.67) or individualistic situation (effect size = 0.64), as illustrated in the table below.  For future breakdown of the data, see Table 2: Mean Effect Sizes For Impact Of Social Interdependence On Dependent Variables in the Johnson & Johnson article "Cooperative Learning And Social Interdependence Theory."  http://www.co-operation.org/pages/SIT.html

Conditions  
Achievement
Interpersonal Attraction
Social Support
Self-Esteem
Coop vs. Comp
0.67
0.67
0.62
0.58
Coop vs. Ind
0.64
0.60
0.70
0.44
Comp vs. Ind
0.30
0.08
-0.13
-0.23

For a graphic comparison of the types of learning objectives supported by individual, competitive and collaborative learning, see Susan Fountain's chart Intended Learning Objectives and Optimal Learning Methods, based on 122 research papers on the topic.  http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/types-learn.html


Anuradha Gokhale reiterates how Vygotsky's work provides the underpinnings for theories of collaborative learning.  Her own research, described in "Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking," [(1995). Journal of Technology Education 7(1)] gives insight into the potential positives and negatives for students participating in collaborative learning activities.  Students' open-ended responses to questions soliciting their reflections on the collaborative learning process and its social/emotional aspects including the following observations:
   
General comment category (number of answers in that category):

  • Helped understanding (21)
  • Pooled knowledge and experience (17)
  • Got helpful feedback (14)
  • Stimulated thinking (12)
  • Got new perspectives (9)
  • More relaxed atmosphere makes problem-solving easy (15)
  • It was fun (12)
  • Greater responsibility- for myself and the group (4)
  • Made new friends (3)
  • Wasted time explaining the material to others (2).       
    http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/jte-v7n1/gokhale.jte-v7n1.html

Section 3:  
Challenges in Using Collaborative Learning Strategies

When you first consider using collaborative learning strategies with your classes, the task may seem daunting for several reasons.   You may worry about losing time in class.  You may be concerned about the time it takes to develop collaborative activities and integrate them into your coursework.  And can anything be done about "slackers"--those non-productive members of a group?   A cost-benefit analysis (like the simple comparison table below) might help you decide which of your lessons would benefit from the collaborative approach and which would not.

Advantages of Large Groups
Advantages of Small Groups
More ideas generated
More opportunity for each person to contribute
Greater diversity of ideas
More equal participation likely
More people to complete the job
Less time required in decision-making
More opportunity for members to "connect" with others
Easier to meet due to fewer schedule considerations

Greater variety of skills available
Disadvantages of Large Groups
Disadvantages of Small Groups
Greater opportunity for conflict among members
Fewer skills available
More time required in decision-making
Conflict can be detrimental with few members to rely on to complete the project
More opportunities for sub-groups to form
Greater time and performance demands on each person
Greater demands on the leader
Retention of group members is important based on the demands of the project


More difficulty achieving consensus
More opportunities for anonymity

Both faculty and students encounter challenges that accompany collaborative learning situations. Faculty may feel, especially at first, that there is never enough time: time to develop activities, time to teach group dynamics, time to implement collaborative learning activities, time in class for students to work on small group projects. It can be scary to implement new collaborative lessons because of the concern that the “experimental” activity may not work smoothly when assigned for the first time. And then there's the grading issue--how should group projects be evaluated?

Students come to your class with varying degrees of interpersonal and academic skills. Collaborative learning may make introverted students apprehensive because it requires them to communicate verbally; they cannot remain passive or disengaged.Students who are academically competitive and self-motivated may resent collaborative learning at first; hey may fear that they will do all of the work and other group members will simply "hitchhike" on their achievements. And just as you will need to decide how to grade collaborative activities equitably, students will need to understand how group participation affects their grades.

As an instructor, one way to begin overcoming these hurdles is to ask experienced colleagues to serve as "collaborative learning mentors." Find out what has worked for them. Ask them how they located or created resources for use in collaborative settings. Observe them in the classroom using collaborative strategies. If you can't find one locally, consider finding an electronic mentor!

Additional resources for addressing these and other challenges:

The Doing CL website includes a section called "Tough Questions" [http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/question/TQ1.asp] which addresses many of the issues that make instructors reluctant to try collaborative learning, including:

  • I can't cover all the material
  • I tried it before and it didn't work.
  • My students need to work independently.
  • The real world is competitive.
  • My students don't like to work in groups.
  • I teach in a large lecture hall.

Deliberations, an international website on issues of learning and teaching for the higher education community, offers insights contributed by their readers.  An excellent resource to visit when you feel overwhelmed by the number of issues to consider surrounding the implementation of collaborative learning.

"Generic Issues Involved in Adopting Collaborative Learning"  

"Issues Raised for Students in Implementing Collaborative Learning"

Dr. Ted Panitz, Professor of Mathematics and Engineering and Coordinator of Developmental Mathematics at Cape Cod Community College, has written extensively about collaborative learning in higher education. His website http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/ includes links to archived electronic discussions (similar to the ones listed above), to his online book Ted's Cooperative Learning E-book, and to articles that he has authored, including:

"Why More Teachers Do Not Use Collaborative Learning Techniques"
http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedsarticles/whyfewclusers.htm

"Assessing Students and Yourself Using the One-Minute Paper and Observing Students Working Cooperatively"
http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedsarticles/Assessment.htm

"Using Cooperative Learning 100% Of the Time In Mathematics Classes Establishes A Student-centered, Interactive Learning Environment"  http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedsarticles/coopmath.htm


Section 4:  Implementing Small Group Collaborative Learning Experiences

Having reached this section of the module, you have probably already explored many of the issues that should be addressed  before you develop collaborative activities for use in a course or re-design an entire course so that its structure is significantly more collaborative in nature. If not, use the following questions as inspiration.

About the students: 

How many students are in the course?
What are the student demographics (freshmen or upperclassmen)?
Are the students majors or nonmajors?
What experiences have the students had with collaborative learning?
What will motivate students to participate actively within their groups?

About yourself
:
Is this the first time I have taught this course?
Am I new to or experienced with collaborative learning activities?
Am I comfortable trying new things?
What is my instructional style?

About the process:
How much structure should I provide in small group assignments?
What is more important, the process or the product?
Is it feasible to assign semester-long group projects considering student attendance and drops?
Do I allow groups to self-select or do I identify the groups?
How do I grade group work?
How does group size and diversity impact group performance?
How do I know if everyone participated and contributed?
Should I have students evaluate each other’s contributions?
What do I do if someone is adamant about not participating in a group project?
How will I know if application of these skills or concepts has benefited my students or me? 
How will I measure success?

Contemplating the questions listed above should lead you to the realization that successful collaborative activities require considerable planning and also an understanding of the way that groups function.

Planning
The National Institute for Science Education's website includes a clear, step-by-step guide to preparing and facilitating collaborative learning activities.  http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/start.htm  The site incorporates research and recommendations from experts in the field, including a link to the Teaching Goals Inventory developed by Angelo and Cross.

http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/tgi.htm
You can use this tool to help you assess "what you deliberately aim to have your students accomplish" and this process will, in turn, enable you to design goal-appropriate collaborative activities. Alternatively, you could complete the checklist below.

Instructional Goal
Yes/No
How would a collaborative activity support this goal?
Memorization


Socialization


Critical Thinking/Problem Solving


Effective Communication


Personal Responsibility


Productive Work Ethic


Values Clarification


Self-awareness


Retention and transfer of knowledge




Group Dynamics

Gerard M Blair, Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, offers a concise look at group development, in his article "Groups That Work":

It is common to view the development of a group as having four stages:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing

Forming is the stage when the group first comes together. Everybody is very polite and very dull....Since the grouping is new, the individuals will be guarded in their own opinions and generally reserved....Storming is the next stage, when all Hell breaks loose and the leaders are lynched. Factions form, personalities clash, no-one concedes a single point without first fighting tooth and nail. Most importantly, very little communication occurs since no one is listening and some are still unwilling to talk openly....Then comes the Norming. At this stage the sub-groups begin to recognize the merits of working together and the in-fighting subsides. Since a new spirit of co-operation is evident, every member begins to feel secure in expressing their own view points and these are discussed openly with the whole group. The most significant improvement is that people start to listen to each other. Work methods become established and recognized by the group as a whole....And finally: Performing. This is the culmination, when the group has settled on a system which allows free and frank exchange of views and a high degree of support by the group for each other and its own decisions.

http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Management/
art0.html?http://oldeee.see.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Management/art0.html

The University of Vermont's Plant Science Department has created a helpful website, Developing an Excellent Group Process, with concrete suggestions on how to prepare for and implement collaborative work  The site includes links to: a Learning-Styles Inventory; a worksheet for Individual and Group Assessment of Collaboration Skills; an example list of Group Norms; guidelines for Group Facilitation; and an excellent article on conflict within groups--its symptoms, causes, and resolution.

When a group member’s needs are not met, they may engage in non-productive behaviors such as resistance, interruptions, or nonattendance.  What are the needs motivating group members to contribute actively? One or more of  these, perhaps:

  • A good grade
  • Inclusion
  • Power/control
  • Status
  • Desire to learn concepts/skills
  • Belonging
  • Esteem
  • Affection
  • Self-actualization

Why Do Some Groups Fall Apart?

  • Lack of understanding of the relevance of the assignment—uninterested in the assignment
  • Lack of motivation—possibly due to concern with ability to be successful working as a group
  • Personality conflicts—lack of appreciation of different approaches to problem-solving
  • Poor leadership—uncertainty as to each person’s roles or responsibilities
  • Lack of organization
  • Unclear goals
  • Inability to meet due to time constraints
  • Lack of understanding of the goals of the assignment
  • Lack of understanding of decision-making options
  • Lack of preparation for meetings

Steps to Developing Effective Meetings for Groups Engaged in Collaborative Learning

  • Provide an assignment before group meetings
  • Identify a recorder to note decisions made at meetings and to summarize discussions.
  • Choose a meeting place that is conducive to accomplishing meeting goals.
  • Ask group members to prepare for meetings, i.e., gather information, read identified materials, summarize ideas.
  • Discuss group norms and individual roles, expectations, and motivations.  Encourage all group members to participate.
  • Assign someone the role of challenging the ideas that are generated.
  • Clearly identify each member’s responsibilities and set timelines
  • Distribute meeting summaries to all group members

In addition, visit the "Small Group Communication" website [http://www.abacon.com/commstudies/groups/group.html] developed by Tim Borchers at Moorhead State University.  This site explores models of group development and decision-making and examines common group pitfalls such as "group-think" and conflict.



Grading Collaborative Efforts

Evaluation of group work can be looked at from two perspectives:  1) assessment of  the individual plus assessment of the group, or 2) assessment of the process plus assessment of the product.  In some cases, the collaborative learning process is as important, or more important, than the product. Gokhale, citing Slavin's research in her article "Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking," reminds us that effective collaborative learning includes group goals and individual accountability
“When it is the group’s task to ensure that every group member has learned something, it is in the interest of every group member to spend time explaining concepts to groupmates”  (Gokhale, 1995, paraphrasing Webb, 1985). 
http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/jte-v7n1/gokhale.jte-v7n1.html

The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development suggest several ways to grade students in groups:

  • All students get the same grade for group project
  • All students are assigned separate tasks within a group project, which are assessed separately.
  • All students get the same grades for the product of the group and then peers assess contributions to the group process for an additional grade or additional points
  • All students get the same grade for original task and then get different grades for an additional task.
  • All get the same grade for the original task, then an exam task based on the group work is given to assess individual student's understanding. http://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsd/2_learntch/assess_grpwk.html

The Doing CL website http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/grades.htm addresses the pros and cons of these and other group grading schemes, adding:

It is crucial that regular feedback (formative assessment) be provided to the students by the instructor and peers. This not only helps the students know whether they are "on track," it also makes the grading at the end easier because the instructor has observed the group process the tasks outcomes. Furthermore, students are informed on how they are doing every step of the way so there are no surprises at the end.

Often students within a group are asked to contribute to the grading process by assessing their peers.  Teresa Bulman, Portland State University, in her article "Peer Assessment in Group Work"  observes:

I have found that the peer assessment forms works as both peer pressure and as a release valve. Students know going into the project that they will evaluate their peers and be evaluated by them. This causes them (they tell me) to work harder on the project than they might if their grade only were at stake. On the rare occasion when a student does not do a fair share, the other members of the group have an opportunity to reveal that problem.



Section 5:  Additional Resources

Angelo, T. A. and Cross, K. P. (1993).  Classroom assessment techniques:  A handbook for college teachers, 2nd edition. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Beebee, A. B., Masterson, J. T.  (2003).  Communicating in small groups:  Principles and practices, 7th edition. Allyn & Bacon.

Bonwell, C. C., and Eison, J. A. (1991). "Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1)." Washington, DC: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.

Bosworth, K. & Hamilton, S.J (eds.). (1990). Collaborative learning: Underlying process and effective techniques. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No.59. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Bouton, C., & Garth, R. (Vol. Eds.) & K. E. Eble, & J. F. Noonan (Series Eds.). (1983). Learning in groups. New directions for teaching and learning, 14. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bruffee, K. (1993). Collaborative learning: Higher educaiton, interdependence and the authority of knowledge. Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.

Chickering, A. W., Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 3-7.

Cohen, E. G. (1994). Restructuring the classroom: Conditions for productive small groups. Review of Educational Research, 64(1), 1-35.

Cooper, J.L. & Mueck, R. (1990). Student involvement in learning: Cooperative learning and college instruction. Journal of Excellence in College Teaching, 1 (1): 68-76.

Cooper, J. L., Prescott, S., Cook, L., Smith, L., Mueck, R., & Cuseo, J. (1990). Cooperative learning and college instruction: Effective use of student learning teams. Long Beach, CA: The California State University Foundation on behalf of California State University Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Courtney, D. P, Courtney, M., & Nicholson, D. (1992, November). The effect of cooperative learning as an instructional practice at the college level. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association, Knoxville, TN. (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 354 808)

Cross, K. P. (2002). The role of class discussion in the learning-centered classroom.  Educational Testing Service.

Cross, K. P. (2001).  Motivation:  Er…Will that be on the test?  Educational Testing Service.

Cross, K. P. (2000). Collaborative learning 101.  Educational Testing Service.

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