How can I assess students in a class emphasizing group work?

Please Sign In or Register* to view this video

*To protect students' privacy, you must register for a PhysPort account and prove you are an educator
Episode 501: Keep arguing Florida International University

Group work is an important part of many science classes. As instructors we may want students to work in groups to validate each other’s correct ideas, refute each other’s incorrect ideas, raise important questions, and generally practice being part of a collaborative team. A tricky question for many instructors is how to balance group work with individual accountability. How can we assess students in a class emphasizing group work?

July 2, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Facilitating collaboration
Physics Content
Instructor Interaction
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (2 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(2 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(334 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What did you notice in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what you noticed.
  2. Why does this instructor (Leon) give group exams? What is the value of this form of assessment for him, according to his explanation in this episode?
  3. In Leon’s class, the ultimate evidence of understanding is not only getting the right answer, but also making a compelling argument to the others in your group; otherwise, he says, “maybe you didn't understand it as well as you needed to in order to argue these points effectively.” Do you agree that good understanding typically translates to effective argumentation? Or do you think that this is not typically the case?
  4. Ariana jokes about deceiving her partners in order to get her answer onto the exam. Does it seem that she thinks good understanding typically translates to effective argumentation? What might Ariana be concerned about, such that she would consider deception?
  5. What do you think Leon means by the term “smart” in line 36? What is the relationship between being “smart” and being a “reasonably good scientist”?
  6. Earlier, Leon explained that the groups for the exam would be selected by him (not the students) and would not be announced until the start of the exam. What might motivate this part of his assessment strategy?
  7. In this episode, a number of power structures are proposed, including democracy (majority rule) and meritocracy (the highest-quality answer wins). What other power structures are proposed in this episode – what else might determine who “wins” in this classroom?
  8. What does this episode suggest about how best to assess students in a class emphasizing group work?

Collections featuring this lesson

Best of Periscope11 LESSONS

Other Lessons featuring this video

How can I assess group work in a way that is equitable? How does the culture of a community show up in a physics class? Why might students not want to argue in class?