Instructor: Karen Moore
Course: Systems Synthesis I (90-739), Heinz School
Assessment: Weighted Peer Evaluation for Group Project
For their systems projects, students were assigned to large teams (approximately 12 students). However, to complete the project, they frequently worked in smaller subgroups, with changing membership. As a result, students worked far more intensively with some of their teammates than others. I needed a peer evaluation of team members’ contributions that was sensitive to the fact that some students’ experiences qualified them to assess one another more accurately and in greater depth than others. With the help of an Eberly consultant, I developed this peer evaluation instrument. It allows students to assess their teammates while helping me weight that feedback according to the extent and nature of their experiences working together.
Students were given a packet containing a peer evaluation form for each student in their group, and were given several days at the end of the project to complete their evaluation. Failure to complete it would affect their grade. After students completed the evaluation, I reviewed their feedback and developed an algorithm for weighting it: the feedback of students who had worked together directly was given greater weight than the feedback of students who had not worked together directly, and the feedback of project managers and subgroup leaders (who monitored team performance throughout the semester) was given even greater weight. Students received a group grade for their project, but it was adjusted upwards or downwards on the basis of this weighted peer feedback.
The instrument worked very well. I found that even though the feedback was not anonymous, students were forthcoming and honest. I learned a lot simply from reading through their answers. (The question: “Would you work with this person again?” was particularly revealing.) I was able to identify a number of “free riders” as well as high-contributors, and adjust grades accordingly, which contributed to a sense of fairness. I believe students also learned to assess their own contributions, strengths, and weaknesses more effectively by assessing one another’s.
I found that compiling the information I collected took time and figuring out an algorithm for weighting it was challenging. However, the insights I gained were worth the effort. I found the instrument very useful and will use it again in the future.
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