Flexible Peer Assessment Formats to Acknowledge Individual Contributions During (Web-Based) Collaborative Learning

Flexible Peer Assessment Formats to Acknowledge Individual Contributions During (Web-Based) Collaborative Learning

Dominique M.A. Sluijsmans, Jan-Willem Strijbos
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-729-9.ch008
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In (web-based) collaborative learning, practitioners increasingly stress the need to acknowledge individual efforts. To this end, peer assessment is regarded as a valuable tool. Research, however, shows shortcomings in the calculations and flexibility of peer assessment formats that are used to transform a group score into individual scores. This chapter proposes an innovative approach by presenting peer assessment formats that underlie sound formulas, but moreover allow flexibility in peer assessment design. Subsequently, the effects of the formats on individual scores are investigated. The results reveal that our formulas and formats outweigh ‘traditional’ practices to utilise peer assessment for transforming a group score into individual scores. Guidelines for practitioners on the application of peer assessment formats are presented, as well as an outline for a research agenda with a strong focus on the development of flexible peer assessment in (web-based) collaborative based learning.
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Theoretical Background

Collaborative learning is a common practice in education. Crucial to collaborative learning is that group members perform a fair share of the task. Problems arise when one of more group members do not. This lack of individual effort is referred to as social loafing and free-riding. Social loafing is a tendency to reduce individual effort when working in a group, as compared to individual effort expended when working alone (Williams & Karau, 1991). Free-riding exists when an individual does not bear a proportional amount of the collaborative learning process and yet s/he shares the benefits of the group (Kerr & Bruun, 1983). Social loafing and free-riding are two often voiced complaints regarding unsatisfactory assessment experiences during collaborative learning (Johnston & Miles, 2004). Positive interdependence (Johnson, 1981) and individual accountability (Slavin, 1980) are crucial to any approach of collaborative learning (Strijbos, Martens, & Jochems, 2004). For a group to be successful, group members need to understand that they are each individually accountable for at least one aspect of the group task. Moreover, apart from conventional instructional approaches (e.g., scripted cooperation; O’Donnell & Dansereau, 1992), assessment can be applied to enhance both positive interdependence and individual accountability, as well as address concerns regarding a group members’ below or above average contribution. However, how the group score can be supplemented with (or corrected through) an individual students’ contribution to the collaborative process is precisely the tricky issue we will address in the chapter. We will first outline the lack of alignment between collaborative learning and assessment. We then introduce peer assessment as a method to reduce social loafing and free-riding in (web-based) collaborative learning. It should be noted that this chapter predominantly focuses on the design of peer assessment formats (for classroom and web-based settings) and that the technological design aspects are beyond our scope.

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