Team assignments provide an important learning experience for students who are increasingly called upon to operate effectively in teams in the workplace. Getting feedback (formative and summative) on both the product created by the team and the process that the team used to create the team assignment further enhances the value of the team learning experience.
Assessing the team product (quality and quantity) can be assessed using standard procedures, including clear instructions, assessment criteria and rubrics. In this respect, team products are no different than any other item of coursework. The greater challenge is assessing group process, which includes individual teamwork skills and interaction and translating product and process of team assignments fairly into individual grades.
Why Assess Process?
Active participation by all team members in peer assessment benefits everyone's learning (Webb, 1995), and emphasizing process helps sustain a group over several weeks (Falchikov, 2005). Students are more likely to contribute to the team process if they know the effort will be rewarded (Helms and Haynes 1990). Process assessment includes formative feedback on teamwork skills and contributions to the group. It can also help divide the "product" mark more fairly in relation to individual students' contribution to the group. This is important because students usually resent it when all team members get the same mark regardless of their contribution to the task (Falchikov, 2005). Peer assessment can be effective in discriminating between different students' contributions (Warren and Cheng 2000). Thus, despite the fact that it is "a complicated and problematic task" (Lejk and Wyvill 1996: 268) it is worth taking time to solve the problems (Falchikov 2005).
Advantages of Teamwork
There are several reasons to require students to work in teams, whether in the classroom or online. Teamwork is one of the most valued skills in today's job market. Technical proficiency alone will not lead to a graduate being hired. Employers look for people who know how to work together to solve complex problems.
By working in teams, students learn to deal with diversity and conflict, which are skills that will benefit them in the workplace. Furthermore, course projects can be more interesting because student teams can tackle more complex tasks together than they could manage individually.
Identifying and figuring out how to meet the performance challenge is exciting and rewarding. Educational research shows a clear benefit to cooperative learning (students working in teams to accomplish a common goal). Finally, students working in teams are engaged in active learning, enhancing their own learning and understanding as they help each other learn the course material.