A blog by George Engel

Collaborative learning

Ok, in my readings this week by Palloff and Pratt (2005, 2007), came across a couple of discussions that I would like to reiterate. 

The first item would focus on assessment of collaborative activity.  It is a challenge for educators to determine the best methods for assessment of group work.  As Palloff and Pratt (2005) said, “A simple rule to remember when assessing collaborative work is that collaborative activities are best assessed collaboratively.”  (pg 44).  This means that evaluations should not just rest on the shoulders of the instructor.  Evaluations must also be shared by peers in the group.  Instructors can assess the overall outcome of the collaborative work as well as individual work.  However, they should equally take into account peer evaluations (Palloff and Pratt, 2005). 

Peer evaluations give the instructor insight into the group dynamic that may not have been obvious from the outside.  However, should a peer evaluation seem to have a detrimental bias, due to internal or unresolved conflict within the group, the instructor should be allowed to override a peer assessment if warranted (Palloff and Pratt, 2005).

Now, what about the group member who is resistant or uncooperative in the group? There are several approaches to help deal with this.  First of all, the group when initially established should develop a group charter.  A group charter is a simple document that outlines rolls and responsibilities of each group member.  This charter can set in place guidelines to deal with the uncooperative group member.  As a cooperative document the charter ensures “buy-in from all members of the team (Palloff and Pratt, 2005, pg 29) 

If a charter doesn’t motivate all group members, then further action should be taken by group members to encourage participation by the reluctant member.  They could contact the member to determine the reasons for the non-participation.  Ultimately, however, the group would have to involve the instructor if the reluctant member refuses to cooperate. 

Proper design of projects and assessments is also a key to assessing collaborative work.  If the group fully understands what is to be done and how it is to be assessed at the beginning there is a greater chance of full buy-in by all group members (Palloff and Pratt, 2005)

I found a blog post at http://cilass.group.shef.ac.uk/?p=153 where the author gives some suggestions to assist with the group dynamic.  They mention activities such as icebreakers that allow group members to share strengths and weaknesses so group work can be shared appropriately.  Also, they mention in the safety of a group environment members could try things they have little skill at to learn and practice the skill.

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (2005).  Collaborating online. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pallof, R. and Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


6 responses

  1. George,
    I think a charter is a good idea, but I also think it works best when there is a group larger than two. I also think that group pressure can be a good thing if all members are willing to use it! Good thinking!

    July 7, 2009 at 3:56 PM

  2. Kristin Temples

    I think a charter is a great idea for a person who is not particiating. I feel that students who have the opportunity to assess thier group work really gives a teacher good insight into what is really going on in a group. Sometimes teachers have many groups and can’t facilitate as much as they would like. Therefore; the student assessments are valuable to the teacher.

    July 8, 2009 at 8:30 PM

  3. George
    Your post is very detailed as are all your post. I like the idea of a charter, but I do believe the instructor should play a role in encouraging the reluctant participant. Students should understand what it means to participate in collaborative groups.

    July 11, 2009 at 12:22 AM

  4. George
    Thanks again for your suggestions on improving my presentation. Hey George keep them coming you are a great source of information and help.

    July 11, 2009 at 9:48 PM

  5. Evaluations pertaining to group memembers should not solely rest on the instructor. The group memembers view on their peers will give the instructor an idea of how to grade each individual.

    The chart will help groups to have a clear understanding of how to participate in their groups. If that doesn’t work, the instructor needs to be informed. The other memembers of the group need to continue with their participation and let the instructor handle that group member.

    W. Jackson

    July 11, 2009 at 11:27 PM

  6. Kristin Temples

    A clear understanding should come from the instructor. However the student should be able to work productively in the group as long as the path is clear. If it is not the student needs to notify a group member or the teacher. The assessment should come from other students as well as the instructor.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:18 AM

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