The ability to work as part of a team is an essential skill for graduates, and many programmes include opportunities for students to develop it through participation in group projects. This is not always an easy experience for students who are used to individual assignments, and there are often tensions around communication and contribution. In particular, students are very unhappy if team members perceived as ‘free-loaders’ get the same shared grade as those who have done all the work.
Tutors sometimes provide students with forms that ask them to provide group members with feedback, but processing them and providing each student with a summary is a major task, especially for large cohorts. For this reason it is invariably done at the end of a project, so the feedback is too late to affect behaviours. It would be better to provide several opportunities for feedback during the project so that it can be formative; acknowledging exceptional contributions and identifying poor performance. There might also be a final summative activity where feedback on ‘overall contribution to the group’s work’ could be used to identify free-loaders and even differentiate individual grades.
Note that peer feedback on group work is different to peer review or peer assessment of assignments, where students offer feedback and perhaps even grade each other’s work.
There are several online systems available that simplify and automate the peer feedback process, enabling tutors to easily set up and run multiple formative and/or summative feedback opportunities.
TEAMMATES is an award-winning free online system that facilitates peer feedback between students working in groups. It provides many features including several types of feedback questions and the option to make feedback anonymous or attributed.
See the TEAMMATES website for a video tour, list of features and to apply for a free instructor account.
TEAMMATES has been developed since 2010 by academics and students at the School of Computing and the Centre for the Development of Learning and Teaching at the National University of Singapore, and their intention is to keep it as a free service.
- It runs on the Google App engine which provides strong stability and scalability, enabling it to cope with large cohorts and groups.
- It has been approved by Aston’s Legal Services in terms of data protection and GDPR compliance.
- However, it is not supported by Aston’s TEL Support team or IT Services, so any technical issues must be directed to the TEAMMATES email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Support for pilot projects
CLIPP would like to support academics who wish to use TEAMMATES by providing pedagogic advice as well as practical help in getting started. For example:
- the guidance given to students about the peer feedback process;
- creating matching groups in Blackboard and TEAMMATES;
- suitable criteria and wording for the formative feedback activities;
- using formative data to engage with students at risk;
- effective techniques for summative feedback activities;
- using summative data to individualise grades in group projects;
- how to identify students who try to ‘game the system’;
- evaluation of the pilot project.
Please contact Adam Warren if you would like to pilot TEAMMATES in your programme or module.