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Assessing a team's product and process

Individual accountability is one of the key elements of cooperative learning. No matter how much mutual support, coaching, and encouragement they receive, students must be individually responsible for their own academic achievements. The roles of "hitchhiker" (a student who does not do a fair share of the work) and "workhorse" (a student who takes on a disproportionate amount of the work) are both unacceptable in a cooperative setting.

The subject of how to grade team projects is controversial. Some educators (cited in Hartley & Robson, 1999) suggest that group grades should never be used. Group grades, according to this point of view are unfair, devalue a student's mark, undermine motivation, and violate individual accountability.

Other educators (cited in Hartley & Robson, 1999) support a single group grade shared by team members. This argument is based on the premise that students must perceive that the distribution of grades is fair, otherwise they may become unmotivated. The claim is made that students who have experienced cooperative learning prefer group grades to individual grades. Palloff and Pratt (1999) require their students to negotiate a group grade on collaborative assignments.

Felder and Brent (2001) recommend that the instructor collect peer ratings of individual "team citizenship" and use these ratings to adjust the team assignment grades. This will reward exceptional team members and penalize those who do not contribute, and help avoid many of the conflicts and resentments that often occur when students work on project teams. Hartley and Robson (1999) give an example of a peer evaluation form they have used to measure individual contribution to a team project. They recommend that the students have input into the criteria that will be used in peer evaluation, and that the criteria should be known before the project starts.

Another peer rating system is outlined by Kaufman, Felder and Fuller (2000). They recommend providing students with guidance and practice in assigning ratings. They also suggest taking time to present several team scenarios, have the students fill out rating sheets for the hypothetical team members, and then discuss the ratings and reach consensus on what they should be.

Hartley and Robson (1999) recommend having students regularly reflect on the specific behaviours that helped or hindered their team's progress. They encourage students to recognize and celebrate the things they are doing well, and establish goals for specific changes they want to make to improve the team's functioning. They suggest a number of assignments that can be used to grade a team's collective team skills. XE "Teamwork:Assessing product and process".