Collaborative Peer Evaluation: Best Practices for Group Member Assessments

By Gueldenzoph, Lisa E.; May, Gary L. | Business Communication Quarterly, March 2002 | Go to article overview
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Collaborative Peer Evaluation: Best Practices for Group Member Assessments


Gueldenzoph, Lisa E., May, Gary L., Business Communication Quarterly


As collaborative or team-based projects become more popular in both secondary and post-secondary classrooms, instructors are looking for ways for group members to effectively evaluate one another. Constructing effective evaluation tools can be a daunting task. As shown by a review of literature, best practices include (1) building a foundation in the classroom that supports collaborative evaluation, (2) creating effective evaluation tools by articulating specific criteria and ensuring honest student participation, (3) implementing formative feedback during the collaborative experience, (4) formulating summative feedback at the conclusion of the experience, and (5) assessing the collaborative evaluation process.

Keywords: Peer evaluation, assessment, collaboration

COLLABORATIVE SKILL is a prerequisite for most business jobs today. A quick glance at the classified advertisements confirms that companies seek employees who work well in group environments, who are able to take leadership positions, and who can be effective team players. For these reasons, collaborative learning has evolved in both secondary and post-secondary classrooms. This evolution is supported by post-modernistic and constructivist learning theories, which suggest that the role of the instructor should shift from the "sage on the stage" to the "guide on the side." Thus, instructional strategies are moving away from "lecture and learn" and toward "collaborate and create." This shift is based on the principle that effective learning requires students to be actively involved in social learning contexts, i.e., group projects. However, one of the instructional hazards of group projects is evaluation. How should students be assessed for their participation in group projects? One potentially effective method is peer evaluation.

Peer evaluation is defined by Pond and Ul-Haq (1997) as "an assessment methodology that allows students to provide input into the assessment procedure through evaluating each others' performance in out-of-class learning activities, with control of the final grade remaining with the teacher" (p. 331). In theory, peer evaluation appears to be an effective method of collaborative assessment. However, as with many instructional endeavors, putting theory into practice can be complex. This article reviews the literature on peer evaluation to identify some of the best practices.

Several researchers have provided both theoretical and practical applications for the effective use of collaborative learning (Crews & North, 2000; Gardner & Korth, 1998; Gueldenzoph & Wilson, 1997; Monteith & Shelton, 1996; Smith, 1998; Wilson & Gueldenzoph, 1998). Additional authors have provided valuable research and procedures on the assessment and evaluation of group projects (Levi & Cadiz, 1998; Smith, 1998; Webb, 1993). However, many faculty also value the evaluative input of the student group members themselves (Beatty & Haas, 1996; Sherrard & Raafat, 1994). Few studies have focused specifically on the peer evaluation process in business communication courses. However, one important study was conducted by Chalupa, Chen, & Sormunen-Jones (2000) who tested the reliability and validity of their self-created group member rating form and found it to be very effective. Practitioners seeking to validate their own self-created assessments would be wise to use Chalupa et al's approach.

Using intra-group peer evaluation forms similar to the one in Appendix A, students are able to evaluate the participation of fellow group members. But creating an effective peer evaluation form can be a difficult task. Specific criteria should match the objectives of the particular course or group project. A comprehensive review of related literature resulted in a list of several best practices in creating such forms. Specifically, before implementing peer evaluations, instructors should consider how they will build a solid foundation for incorporating peer evaluations into their classrooms as well as how evaluation tools will be created to articulate criteria, ensure honest student participation, and implement both formative and summative feedback processes.

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