Assessment in team projects
Dr Fiona Truscott, Faculty of Engineering Sciences, shares her experience of setting creative assessments to evaluate team projects.
21 November 2022
Moving away from traditional teaching
As we try to move away from the traditional lecture based methods of teaching in HE, we are increasing adding collaborative elements to our classrooms. One common collaborative method is team projects; they are fun and engaging for students and staff and provide a space for learning a wide range of skills. However, one barrier to bringing team projects to your classroom can be understanding how to build in assessment. The first thing to know is that while traditional exams don’t work in this context, pretty much every other assessment type does. You can be as creative as you want here – get your teams to produce a podcast or a video, demonstrate a prototype, or pitch an idea.
Structuring team assessment
When structuring assessment within a team project, best practise is to spread it throughout the project. This ensures that everything isn’t riding on an end-point assessment, reducing pressure on a team (and conflict within it). It also reduces the impact of last minute failure and allows you to signpost key milestones for your students so they know how much progress they should have made, stops teams leaving things to the last minute and gives you a good window to check in with teams’ progress and nudge if a team is going down an unproductive rabbit hole.
Indirect and direct methods of assessment
As teamwork skills are a common learning objective in team project modules, one way of thinking about assessment is to look at how they assessment teamwork within the project. This splits assessment into indirect and direct methods of assessing teamwork. The vast majority of assessment falls into the indirect category; this includes anything that teams produce over the course of the project and any documentation of the project journey. The idea behind indirect assessment is that the team has to work together to produce the submitted work and so if something is submitted, teamwork must have happened. There is some correlation between a poor submission and poor teamwork but they generally tell us little about an individual’s teamwork skills. However indirect assessments are typically easy to explain to students, easy to mark and logistically straightforward as a project has to have an output.
Direct assessment of teamwork has to be explicitly built into a project and can be conceptually trickier but it gives a much more accurate picture of an individual’s teamwork skills. The three main ways to assess teamwork directly are through staff observation, individual reflection and peer assessment within a team.
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