This term, we were asked at work to develop a simple task that would get students to give feedback to one another and to develop a research question based on that task, the objective being to improve our instructional design for peer feedback.
My research question was as follows – To what extent are students able to provide suggestions to improve their ability to work in a team after evaluating others’?
I carried out my research on a class of 20 students who are generally ready learners.
Here’s what I asked my students asked to do:
After completing some group work in class, students carried out the following steps:
Step 1: Students were given a worksheet to rank their group mates based on how well they were able to work in a team.
Step 2: They were then asked to provide suggestions to help their groupmates to improve in their team player ranking.
Step 3: Finally, they were asked to reflect on what they themselves could do to improve in their teamwork skills.
What I learnt from Step 1:
- Students seemed to be able to rank their groupmates quite easily and had a sensing of who was a good team mate and who was not such a good team mate.
- Even though it was only optional to include themselves in the ranking, most of them did. Students seemed keen to consider themselves in the process and how they compared to their friends.
- Students could be split into two groups, those who were not able to clearly articulate the reasons for their rankings and those who could. Generally they were better able to say why one team member was good or not so good at team work, but they were not so good at comparing team members against each other.
What I have learnt from Step 2:
- Students mostly gave non-specific suggestions for improvement like “contribute more”, “participate more” or “talk less”. This section of the task seemed redundant.
What I have learnt from Step 3:
- Most students wrote down at least one thing they could do to improve their teamwork skills. Some examples of responses were:
- “Provide more ideas to the group”
- “be a bit more participative”
- “I should talk more and give more ideas”
- “I can answer and ask more questions, contribute more”
Like at Step 2, the answers were quite general and it was not clear whether the student knew exactly what to do to be a better team player, though most of their suggestions for themselves were related to the explanations of their rankings in Step 1. For example, if the explanation at Step 1 was “xx provided a lot of ideas for the project”, at Step 3 they would write something like “provide more ideas to the group”.
- If students were clearer about what a good team player was, they might have been able to provide clearer explanations and suggestions for improvement, both for their team mates and themselves. In future, I will have them make reference to their group rules and norms prior to the team work evaluation. Students should also consider the roles they had to play in the group work prior to their team work evaluation.
- The process was completed in 15 minutes and perhaps students need more time to reflect in order to provide more meaningful feedback and suggestions.