Assessing Group Work in Hybrid/Remote Environments
Assessing group work in any course modality is complex, requiring course instructors to evaluate process-related and product-related skills while using indicators from group performance to assess individual grades. Group work in hybrid and remote environments can provide rich learning experiences that will help to prepare students to collaborate in similar environments in their professional work, a key attribute that employers who recruit at Carnegie Mellon identified in a 2020 focus group as being particularly beneficial. The following consideration can help instructors to prepare for the added complexities of assigning and assessing group work in hybrid and remote environments.
Compose student teams carefully.
- With remote and hybrid modes of instruction, there may be added complexities to composing teams. For example, students’ schedules may be harder to align given the stretched class day and different time zones. Consider composing teams based on aligning when their schedules are open – to facilitate synchronous collaboration/meeting time. Additional guidance on group composition is available from the Eberly Center.
- Leverage technology to help compose teams based on various factors, including schedules and geographic locations. A number of faculty in CIT use the Comprehensive Assessment for Team-Member Effectiveness (CATME) for team formation (Layton et al., 2010) and team management including peer review. It is particularly beneficial for instructors who wish to assess development of teamwork and collaboration skills (Loughry et al., 2014).
- CATME is centrally licensed by the Eberly Center and is available to course instructors at no cost. Faculty who would like to learn how to use this tool should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provide frequent support to teams as they organize and work on projects.
- Spend some time (synchronously or asynchronously) addressing aspects of teamwork that will likely arise in this project (especially ones that may be challenging for students, e.g., agreeing on the team’s focus, deciding when/how to meet, assigning roles and responsibilities), and provide resources to make those steps easier for students.
- The Eberly Center provides a number of sample tools to support group projects including skills inventories and team contracts. Additionally, CollaborativeU and ConflictU are online training modules offered through the Open Learning Initiative to support skill development in effective collaboration and conflict resolution. These modules are available at no cost to CMU instructors and students.
- Both CollaborativeU and ConflictU are designed to embed in an existing class that has a significant team project component.
- Each module typically requires 2-3 hours for students to complete.
- Instructors who wish to incorporate these modules should email email@example.com.
- Help students practice working in teams and get to know their teammates having them work together on a low-stakes, fun assignment as their first assessment.
- Offer support as needed via team meetings, office hours, etc. to groups as they progress in their work. While the frequency may vary depending on the project timeline, periodic check-ins, milestone deliverables, and peer review will allow you to evaluate incremental progress and deliver formative feedback.
- Incorporating milestone deliverables may be particularly effective for longer term projects that span two weeks or more. This approach not only enables monitoring of each group’s progress but facilitates identification of students who are not contributing to the project, providing early opportunities for outreach and engagement.
- Encourage individual students to reach out privately if problematic group dynamics surface. If there is concern over one of the group members, you could schedule a group check in to help students resolve the matter proactively, without disclosing the student who raised the concern.
Encourage students to actively plan for presentation flow.
- Students should determine order of speakers and slide deck management in advance.
- If using the chat functionality in Zoom, you can encourage (or require) a student on the team who is not the current speaker to monitor.
Consider alternatives to live presentations for larger classes.
- If the size of your course prohibits live presentations, consider asking students to record their presentation and post to the course Canvas site.
- Determine the subset of recordings that students need to view and reserve the class meeting times for a live Q&A session with each of the teams. By assigning students specific recordings that they are responsible for watching and developing questions on ahead of time, the Q&A sessions will likely be more productive and beneficial for the teams.
Provide structure for any post-presentation Q&A that requires audience participation.
- Notify students in advance that they will be expected to present questions to their colleagues.
- Consider evaluating students on the quality of questions that they ask. If you opt to do so, communicate these expectations clearly.
- If the size of the course does not permit each student to present a question to every group, provide a structured plan for how to otherwise collect peer ratings or review comments. This can be a graded element or completion/noncompletion.
Layton, R. A., Loughry, M. L., Ohland, M. W., & Ricco, G. D. (2010). Design and validation of a web-based system for assigning members to teams using instructor-specified criteria. Advances in Engineering Education, 2(1), 1-28.
Loughry, M. L., Ohland, M. W., & Woehr, D. J. (2014). Assessing teamwork skills for assurance of learning using CATME team tools. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(1), 5-19.