Pedagogies of Engagement (Cooperative Learning) and Assessment
Karl A. Smith
How can we assess student learning in classes where cooperative learning in practiced? How can we involve students in the assessment process? How can we manage the trade-offs between “meaningful” and “manageable” assessment? Participants in this interactive
workshop will explore the professor's role in designing and structuring meaningful and manageable assessment strategies. Research and practice insights from David and Roger Johnson’s Assessing Students in Groups: Promoting Group Responsibility and Individual Accountability (Corwin, 2004) will be highlighted.
1. Participants will be able to describe key elements of:
a. Cooperative learning and assessing student learning
b. Classroom assessment
c. Trade offs between meaningful and manageable assessment
2. Participants will begin applying key elements to the design on a course, class
session or learning module
Assessing Students in Groups explains how to form productive groups and assess
individual student performance in group work. David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, prominent experts in cooperative learning, provide many practical resources that can be put to immediate use, including scoring sheets, observation forms, learning contracts, classroom activities, and questionnaires. Key concepts include:
; When and where to use groups
; Making groups productive
; Developing an assessment plan for groups
; Assessing performances of individual group members
; Self-assessment in groups
; Peer assessment in groups
Karl A. Smith, Ph.D.
Cooperative Learning Professor of Engineering Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor
Education Professor of Civil Engineering
Department of Engineering Education University of Minnesota (Phased Retirement)
Fellow, Discovery Learning Center 236 Civil Engineering
Purdue University (75% Appointment) 500 Pillsbury Drive SE
Engineering Administration Building Minneapolis, MN 55455
400 Centennial Mall Drive 612-625-0305 (Office)
West Lafayette, IN 47906-2016 612-626-7750 (FAX)
1Cooperative Learning and Assessing Student Learning
1. Use a criterion-referenced system for all assessment and evaluation 2. Use a wide variety of assessment formats
total quality learning
3. Conduct assessment and evaluation in the context of learning teams 4. Directly involve students in assessing each other's level of learning 5. Assess, assess, assess, assess, and assess!
Grading Practices 2Evaluation Methods
Engineering Faculty All Faculty
Grading "on the curve" 43%** 22%
Research/ Term papers 19 33
Multiple choice exams 10* 32
Essay exams 21 43
Student presentations 15 27
Percent of those using the technique in all or most classes
**highest of all fields
* lowest of all fields
It is not a symbol of rigor to have grades fall into a 'normal' distribution; rather, it is a symbol of
failure--failure to teach well, to test well, and to have any influence at all of the intellectual lives 3of students – Milton, et al. 1986, p 225
Types of Assessment
1. Diagnostic Assessment
Conducted at the beginning of an instructional unit, course, semester. . . to determine the
present level of knowledge, skill, interest. . . of a student, group or class. 2. Formative Assessment
Conducted periodically throughout the instructional unit. . .to monitor progress and
provide feedback toward learning goals.
3. Summative Assessment
Conducted at the end of an instructional unit or semester to judge the quality and quantity
of student achievement and/or the success of the instructional unit.
1David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson and Edythe Johnson Holubec. 1996. Meaningful and manageable
assessment through cooperative learning. Edina, MN: Interaction.
2Astin, Alexander W. 1993. Engineering outcomes. ASEE PRISM, 3(1), 27-30.
3Milton, O., Pollio, H.R., and Eison, J.A. 1986. Making sense of college grades. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Goal Setting Conferences Simulations
Standardized Tests Questionnaires
Teacher-Made Tests, Quizzes, Exams Interviews
Written Compositions Learning Logs & Journals
Oral Presentations Student Management Teams
Portfolios Total Quality Learning Procedures
Observations Teacher Assessment Teams
Record Keeping (Attendance, Participation, Student-Led Conferences
1. Performance-Based Assessment
Students demonstrate what they know and can do by performing a procedure or skill
2. Authentic Assessment
Students demonstrate a procedure of skill in "real life" context
3. Total Quality Learning
Continuous assessment of the process of learning (and teamwork) to improve it
Student Performances Assessed
1. Academic Learning: What students know, understand, and retain over time.
2. Reasoning: The quality of students’ reasoning, conceptual frameworks, use of the
scientific method and problem-solving, and construction of academic arguments.
3. Skills and Competencies: Examples are oral and written communication skills,
teamwork skills, research skills, skills of organizing and analyzing information,
technology skills, skills of coping with stress and adversity, conflict resolution skills.
4. Attitudes: The attitudes students develop, such as love of learning, commitment to being
a responsible citizen, desire to read, liking scientific reasoning, self-respect, liking of
diversity, commitment to making the world a better place, and many others.
5. Work Habits: The work habits students develop, such as completing work on time,
using time wisely, meeting responsibilities, striving for quality work, continuously
improving one’s work, and so forth.
Classroom assessment techniques are quick activities you ask the students to complete to help you determine what they are learning, what things are going well for them, and what things are causing them difficulty. Probably the most famous of these techniques is the "minute paper" proposed by Charles Schwarts, a professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley. A few minutes before the end of class, he asks students to write the answer to two questions: (1) What was the most important/meaningful/useful thing you learned today? (2) What question(s) remain uppermost in your mind as we end this session? Minute papers are good teaching techniques as well as useful classroom assessment devices. They tend to focus student’s
attention and help them reflect on the class period.
There are many other classroom assessment devices that you may want to try. For example:
; What was the "muddiest point" in today's session? (In other words what was least
clear to you?)
; List the key knowledge or skills you have learned in this session, then list some
possible applications to your own life.
; List 5 to 7 words or short phrases which will define what _______________ means to
; In no more than three concise sentences, summarize what you've learned about
_____________ so that you could explain it to a friend.
Continuous Improvement Procedure
1. Form teams
2. Select a process for improvement
3. Define the process
4. Engage in the process
5. Gather information about the process, display it, and analyze it
6. Plan for improvement
7. Institutionalize changes that work
56 Student Management Team,
A student management team will be used in this course to operationalize Total Quality Management principles. The attributes of student management teams are described below, and the operation of the team is based on shared responsibility:
Students, in conjunction with their instructor, are responsible for the success of
4Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K. P. 1993. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San
5Nuhfer, E.B. 1995. A Handbook for Student Management Teams. Denver, CO: Office of Teaching Effectiveness, University
of Colorado at Denver.
6Nuhfer, E.B. 1996. Student management teams: The heretic's path to teaching success. In W.E. Campbell & K.A. Smith (Eds.). New Paradigms for College Teaching. Edina, MN: Interaction.
any course. As student managers, your special responsibility is to monitor this
course through your own experience, to receive comments from other students, to
work as a team with your instructor on a regular basis, and to make
recommendations to the instructor about how this course can be improved.
Attributes of Student Management Teams
; 3 - 4 students plus professor.
; Students have a managerial role and assume responsibility for the success of the class.
; Students meet weekly; professor attends every other week. Meetings generally last about
; Meet away from classroom and professor's office.
; Maintain log or journal of suggestions, actions and progress.
; May focus on the professor or on the content.
; Utilize group dynamics approach of TQM.
7Making Assessments Meaningful
1. To be meaningful, assessment has to have a purpose that is significant, such as, (a)
giving students and other stakeholders accurate and detailed feedback on the process
students are using to learn and the quality and quantity of their learning and (b)
improving learning and instruction.
2. Assessments are meaningful when students are involved in conducting the
assessment. In meaningful assessments students (a) understand the assessment
procedures, (b) invest their own time and energy in making the assessment process work,
(c) take ownership of assessing the quality and quantity of their work, and (d) want to
share their work and talk about it with others.
3. Meaningful assessments provide a direction and road map for future efforts to learn.
Meaning is created through involvement which leads to commitment and ownership. There
are five steps in making assessment meaningful.
You must ensure students are involved in
1. Setting learning goals.
2. Planning how to achieve their learning goals
3. The assessment process to determine progress and success in achieving their goals.
The assessment results are used for students to
4. Take pride and satisfaction from their efforts to learn.
5. Set new learning goals and repeat the first four steps.
Making Assessment Manageable
7 Johnson, David W. and Johnson, Roger T. 2004. Assessing Students in Groups: Promoting Group Responsibility
and Individual Accountability, Corwin.
Cooperative learning groups provide:
1. Additional sources of labor to conduct assessments and communicate the results. 2. More modalities to be used in assessing students’ work.
3. More diverse outcomes to be assessed.
4. More sources of information.
5. A way to avoid the bias present when reading and writing are made a prerequisite for
revealing knowledge or engaging in a performance.
6. A way to avoid the possibility of teacher bias impacting the assessment and evaluation
7. A setting in which students may best learn the rubrics used to assess and communicate
about each student’s work.
8. A setting in which assessment can promote academic learning.
9. For group outcomes to be assessed as well as individual outcomes. 10. The support system necessary to implement the improvement plan resulting from the
11. For the continuous improvement process to be an ongoing part of classroom life. 12. The means to make assessment procedures congruent with ideal instructional methods.
Myths About Team-Based Assessment
1. If you assess student learning, you have to give students grades. 2. Faculty must read every student paper and provide feedback.
3. Students are not capable of meaningful involvement in assessment. 4. Involving students in assessment takes valuable time away from learning and lowers their
5. Assessment if a faculty responsibility, not to be done by students. 6. Individual assessment is lost in team-based approaches to assessment.
Cooperative Learning and Assessment Planning
1. Prior to the lesson
; Decide on evaluation criteria
; Plan how to collect information
; Define the process of learning
2. During the lesson
3. Following the lesson
; Checking homework
; Giving tests
; Oral presentations
; Self and other ratings
; Group products
8Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning
1. The assessment of student learning begins with educational values.
2. Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as
multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time. 3. Assessment works best when the program it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly stated
4. Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences that
lead to those outcomes.
5. Assessment works best when it is ongoing, not episodic.
6. Assessment fosters wider improvement when representative from across the educational
community are involved.
7. Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates
questions that people really care about.
8. Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is a part of a larger set of
conditions that promote change.
9. Through assessment, educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public.
8 AAHE Assessment Forum, 1992.