Assessing Cooperative Learning Projects

Each student makes a contribution to the group.
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Cooperative learning is just what the name implies -- students working together cooperatively to achieve a learning outcome. While working together, students help one another learn material while developing social skills as they work toward a common goal. Assessing these projects involves grading the final project as well as the group effort and interaction. Teacher-generated rubrics provide guidelines for students and a systematic way to grade the project.

1 Assessment Options

For successful cooperative learning projects, teachers show students how to set group goals and divide the tasks among the members. The end result is dependent on each student performing his assigned task to help the group progress toward the final outcome. Teachers might choose to conduct ongoing assessments of group progress, assessment of the whole project and assessments of individual students’ contributions using checklists or rubrics.

2 Ongoing Assessments

Although the students ultimately produce a final group project, each individual is responsible for ongoing participation. Throughout the project, the teacher might check in with groups to check on progress toward the end goal using observations or interviews. A teacher-made checklist might assess whether students have gathered necessary materials, if individual students are making contributions, whether students have developed and are proceeding along a timeline for completion and what concerns or questions individuals have. Throughout the project the teacher may give feedback or intervene to assist groups toward their goal.

3 Project Assessments

Prior to the implementation of the assignment, the teacher develops a rubric for assessing the projects and presents it to the students so they are aware of the requirements. The project rubric should be tailored to the project and assess quality of work, creativity, materials used, completeness, originality and presentation of the project. A numeric scale of 4 = outstanding work, 3 = above average, 2 = satisfactory, 1= poor quality and 0 = unacceptable or incomplete, allows the teacher to assign a letter grade to the project.

4 Student Evaluations

Teachers may choose to assess each student's contribution to the project. A rubric might include a rating for finishing on time, encouraging others, cooperating and listening to others’ ideas. Another rubric for student participation might include rating individual students on contributions to the group goal, consideration of others in the group, knowledge of the material and working and sharing with others. Another option includes ratings for being prepared, cooperation, completion of the assignment, quality of work and an assessment of the student’s individual role in the group. Teachers might ask students to describe what they did well and what areas need improvement for future cooperative learning projects.

Michele Norfleet is a freelance writer who writes on travel, home and garden and education topics. She has coauthored a handbook for teachers on school-wide discipline and has contributed tips for special-needs students in the basal curriculum for RCL Benziger. Norfleet holds a master's degree from Southern Illinois University and has experience as a special-needs teacher and speech pathologist.