Friday, August 13, 2010

The How and the Why of Teamwork

Photo credit: matthew_hull from

A post on Twitter led me to a great little PDF titled 7 Things You Should Know About Assessing Online Team-Based Learning on the Educause site.  While this article is aimed at post-secondary educators there are ideas worth considering at elementary and high school levels.  Assigning group work seems to elicit two responses from students:

1.  We never have time to meet face-to-face.
2.  The marking is never fair because one or two people do all the work.

Perhaps teachers need to consider why it may be important to assign group tasks in the first place and then figure out the logistics of how such assignments could be made to work well.  The article provides a number of suggestions.  Involving the class in these two first steps might also make a difference in how students buy in to a project.  I like the 'best case' scenario described at the beginning of the document because team members took the time to find out what skills each individual had that could be utilized in constructing their product.  Do younger students know how to assess their existing skills and apply them to current assignments?  How do we teach that?  Some ideas might be to:

  • Brainstorm vocabulary that describes skills:  good at writing/spelling, artist, speaker, loves interviewing people, likes keeping things in order.
  • Identify the tasks needed to complete the 
  • assignment and match them to the skills list.
  • Have students choose from a list of skills or attributes or write their own.  "On this project I would be good at .... recording, drawing, leading a team meeting, finding information".

The article goes on to say that the value of team work may not reside solely in the final product but in the steps leading to its creation.  Are there useful tools for using formative assessment techniques on group projects?  I like Google Docs for its "revision history" feature that allows students and teachers to see who has contributed, when and how often, and assess the merits of each contribution.  The document itself gives a snapshot of the students' organizational abilities.  Brainstorming ideas and reflections can take place within the document as well.  VoiceThread is another option that allows students to make individual contributions to a group project.

What have you learned from doing group projects with students?  I'd love to hear so please leave a comment.

Other useful resources:
Collaborating Rubric - Bloom's Digital Taxonomy
WSD's eToolBox - Formative Assessment
Tom Barrett's Marking Work in Google Docs

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