Student Perceptions of Teammatesâ Performance: Influence of Team Formation Method

Swinburne University of Technology
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education - The Profession of Engineering Education: Advancing Teaching, Research and Careers, 2012, pp. 1 - 9
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BACKGROUND This study investigates the group dynamics within the third problem-solving course in a series of four studied by on-campus and distance-education students. The cohorts were organised into teams of on-campus and distance-education students. The distance-education students were further organised into teams comprised of members from the same city or region (where possible). The motivation for this practice was to provide the opportunity for some social interaction for students who otherwise can feel isolated. Research has indicated that collocated teams tend to behave in a more socially-oriented fashion, while distributed teams tend to behave in a more task-oriented fashion. This paper is interested in how the team formations affect peer assessments to obtain individual marks. PURPOSE The hypothesis is that distance-education students placed in collocated teams will tend to behave more like the on-campus students when completing and reviewing their peer assessments. DESIGN/METHOD Where possible, distance-education students were grouped together in the same city or otherwise in the same region; the remaining students were randomly allocated to teams. A survey was conducted at the end of semester to ascertain their experiences of the peer assessment; trends from the survey are compared across two years to provide evidence to support the hypothesis. RESULTS We found that to some extent the social aspects of being in a collocated team resulted in these distance-education students to treat the peer assessment in a similar manner to the on-campus students, that is they had a heightened level of interest in the outcomes and how that impacted their team. A major contributor to the collocated distance-education studentsâ behaviour change was the introduction in the latest offering of an initial practice (formative) peer assessment that encouraged them to critically assess at an early stage whether their team was working effectively. A low response rate for the on-campus students to this formative peer assessment delayed this influence, evident once they had completed the first summative peer assessment (after the first assignment), but it was not observed at all in the distributed distance-education students. CONCLUSIONS The results suggest that collocating teams improves social-orientation and collaboration by facilitating the opportunity for students to meet face-to-face. This is in contrast to random allocation of these teams that other investigations suggested were prone to be more task-oriented. This orientation directly affects how the students undertake the peer assessment task: while all students see it as an opportunity to allocate marks fairly, the collocated teams were more likely to use the review of the results as an opportunity to change their behaviour.
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