There is considerable evidence of student scepticism regarding the purpose of team assignments and high levels of concern for the fairness of assessment when all team members receive the same grade. This chapter considers online self-and-peer assessment (SAPA) as a fair, valid and reliable method of assessing team processes and individualising grades. A pilot study is detailed that evaluated an online self-and-peer continuous assessment (SAPCA–a particular form of SAPA) tool originally developed for small classes of architecture students. The tool was adapted for large classes of up to 1,000 business communication students in a semester. The student sample trialling SAPCA studied on three dispersed campuses, as well as in off-campus and off-shore modes. The chapter proceeds from a literature review of SAPA, to a description of findings from four years of research, testing and development, and finally to a case study of SAPCA implementation with a total of 1,800 students enrolled in a business communication program.
The reasons for the use of student teamwork in the completion of assessment tasks are many (Fermelis, 2006). It is posited that teamwork can lead to an improvement in student learning (James, McInnis, & Devlin, 2002). This improvement might be due to one or more of the following factors: the development of social behavioural skills and higher order thinking skills as well as promoting inclusive participation (Cohen, 1994); the development of critical thinking skills (Dochy, Segers, & Sluijsmans, 1999; Gokhale, 1995; Sluijsmans, Dochy, & Moerkerke, 1999); moving students from a passive to more active learning role (McGourty, Dominick, & Reilly, 1998); the ability to tackle more substantially-sized assessment projects (Goldfinch & Raeside, 1990); or that students learn from their peers within the team (van den Berg, Admiraal, & Pilot, 2006). It is also commonly identified that teamwork can develop skills that are sought by employers (Clark, Davies, & Skeers, 2005; Goldfinch & Raeside, 1990; Hanrahan & Isaacs, 2001), especially a range of non-technical ‘generic’ skills (James, et al., 2002; McGourty, et al., 1998), including interpersonal skills (Goldfinch & Raeside, 1990) and the capacity for lifelong learning (Hanrahan & Isaacs, 2001). Teamwork is cited as being more representative of the real world of work in a professional practice context, and, for students from the design-based disciplines, ideas and experience can be combined collectively for a superior result (Barber, 2004). Finally, used appropriately, student teamwork is one option for addressing issues related to rising student numbers in higher education (Ballantyne, Hughes, & Mylonas, 2002; Goldfinch & Raeside, 1990; James, et al., 2002), including: the expanding demand for physical resources in assessment (Brown, 1995); increasing student-to-staff ratios (Davies, 2000); and the drive from governments and other funding bodies for increased efficiency in higher education (Hanrahan & Isaacs, 2001).