Key Quote: “Students came up with criteria I wouldn’t have expected, like “creativity” and “motivation””

Assignment challenge: How can I ensure that student group work is being done equitably, and that all members are contributing to the project?

Solution: Co-create expectations and rubric with students and include a peer and self-assessment component

Jessica Gemella created an innovative, creative and engaging “Gnome Project” a couple of years ago in her program. Motivated by a desire to have students situate themselves in the local landscape and identify plants experimentally (not on Google!), she had students design popsicle stick gnomes (fun!) and required that when identifying local plants for their plant identification project their unique and personalized gnomes need to be in the photo. Because of the sheer number of plants that need to be identified in this course, Jessica had students work in small teams to achieve the assignment.

Like many instructors who utilize group projects, online or otherwise, Jessica wanted to find a way to ensure that members of each group were participating and contributing equally. In order to do this, Jessica spent time upfront talking about group work, and sharing resources with her students about effective group work. Next, Jessica facilitated an activity where students contributed their thoughts on what would make this group project work well. In this way, students collectively contributed to the criteria of the group work project, and informed the rubric that Jessica ultimately used. That rubric was then used as a peer assessment and a self-assessment. By having students contribute to the creation of a rubric, there is buy-in from the group and an understanding from the get-go of what is expected. This buy-in and understanding can result in greater motivation, focus and success on student work. Also, by having students use the same rubric for peer and self-assessment, accountability and motivation are also influenced.