Assessing Collaborative Problem-Solving
Collaboration is highly valued in the 21st century workplace, but in the classroom it’s often called cheating. When students work together on projects, it is difficult to assess the contribution each student has made. The "Teaching Teamwork” project is measuring how effectively electronics students work in teams. The project addresses the mismatch between the value of teamwork in the modern STEM workplace and the difficulty of teaching students to collaborate while also evaluating them individually.
We log the students’ actions as they work on a simulated circuit consisting of four resistors in series with a voltage source. Using separate computers, linked online, the students work in teams of three. Each student can see and alter one of the resistors, but the fourth, as well as the voltage source, are neither visible nor manipulable by the students. Each student is given the goal of trying to make the voltage drop across her resistor equal to a randomly chosen value. The task is made more difficult by the fact that changes made to any of the resistors affect everyone’s voltage drop, so communication and coordination are critical to good team performance.
Team members can communicate with one another by typing into a chat window. All student actions—from chats to changes in the circuit, measurements, and calculations—are analyzed and used to produce reports that enable instructors to measure not only the performance of a team as a whole, but also the contribution of individual team members.
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