How can I assess group work in a way that is equitable?

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Episode 501: Keep arguing Florida International University

Interactions in science classrooms are shaped by society’s perspectives on race/ethnicity and gender, which can put traditionally underserved groups at a disadvantage. As instructors we want students to work together equitably, so that everyone’s ideas are heard and respected, and we want our assessments of their collaborative work to be fair. How can instructors in interactive classes promote equity in assessment?

July 2, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Promoting equity
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. One student seems to be concerned about “majority rule” in this context.
    1. Should there be “majority rule” in group work? Why or why not?
    2. What negative experiences might some people have had with “majority rule”? What people are most likely to have had such experiences?
  3. Leon says that his test rewards those who are “good at arguing why they’re right,” and that if you can’t, “maybe you didn't understand it as well as you needed to in order to argue these points effectively.”
    1. What values of the scientific community may be reflected in Leon’s statement?
    2. What negative experiences might some people have with others who “keep arguing”? What people are most likely to have had such experiences?
  4. 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?
  5. This is a class in which over 70% of the students are Hispanic (of diverse origins). If you have expertise in one or more Hispanic cultures, share some ways in which you see that culture possibly manifesting in this episode.
  6. A number of the students who speak in this episode are female. Others, including the instructor, are male. What gender issues do you see possibly manifesting in this episode?
  7. What does this episode suggest about how to assess group work in a way that is equitable?

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