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What is the Student Role in Assessment of Cooperative Learning?


Students need to practice the skills that will be required of them as adults. It may be impossible to predict all the competencies that should be emphasized in preparing for the future. However, by considering the emerging labor market demands, projections for technological improvements, continuous increases in knowledge, and shifts in lifestyles, some important lessons can be identified (Toffler and Toffler, 2000). There is evidence that adjustment and success will depend on gaining creative and critical thinking abilities, growing up emotionally, and learning how to perform well in teams. The need for this wide range of assets requires teachers to arrange a complex learning environment that promises to support multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2000).

Concept of Multiple Intelligences

Most of the initial test designers accepted the concept of multiple intelligences. Alfred Binet and Theophile Simon (1905), who developed the first mental tests, viewed intelligence as being a combination of separate cognitive functions. The particular dimensions that they identified were comprehension, judgment, direction, and invention. Edward Thorndike (1927) thought that intelligence is shown by capacity to respond effectively to novel situations. Just as there are different kinds of situations, so there are different patterns of intelligence like abstract, mechanical, and social. Consequently, a skilled politician may perform poorly in situations requiring mechanical abilities while a skilled mathematician might perform poorly in settings where social intelligence is needed.

Louis Thurstone (1938) hypothesized that intelligence consists of seven primary mental abilities consisting of verbal comprehension, number ability, word fluency, spatial visualization, associative memory, perceptual speed and reasoning. The Stanford-Binet test, produced by Lewis Terman and Maud Merrill (1937, 1960), consisted of verbal and nonverbal mental tasks. David Wechsler (1949, 1997) created separate intelligence scales for children and adults. Joy Guilford (1950, 1967, 1981) presented a theoretical model that he called the Structure of Intellect. Guilford's model remains the most comprehensive outlook in suggesting the existence of 120 intelligences.

In the past decade educators have shifted the emphasis on memorization in favor of other mental processes (Benson, 2003). A rapid growth of knowledge means that certain information becomes obsolescent quickly. In effect, some of what students memorize for tests may be relevant for only a brief period. Therefore, creative thinking and critical thinking abilities that are needed for problem solving are now prominent goals in many nations. Paul Torrance's (2000; 2002) creativity tests, in figural and verbal formats, are able to detect individual differences in originality, elaboration, fluency, flexibility, and redefinition abilities.

Daniel Goleman (1999; 2002) believes that children must be helped to develop emotional intelligence. He maintains this ability can ensure that the quality of life in a hurried and stressful environment is more healthy and satisfying. Many significant problems that involve getting along with others such as peer abuse, divorce, crime, prejudice or being fired stem more from poor emotional health and immaturity than from a lack of academic skills. Reading, writing and arithmetic are recognized as basic academic skills; they are also the easiest lessons for people to learn. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, impulse control, zeal, persistence, self-motivation, empathy, and social deftness. Another way of configuring the mental abilities necessary to function well has been proposed by the American Psychological Association President Robert Sternberg (1988, 2000). The Sternberg Triarchic Abilities Test (STAT) is a battery of multiple choice items corresponding to his rationale that individual success depends upon the development of three independent types of intelligence --analytical, creative, and practical.

Howard Gardner (2000) recommends that schools recognize at least eight frames of mind: (1) verbal -- linguistic abilities that implicate speaking, reading and writing skills; (2) logical -- mathematical abilities that enable deductive and inductive reasoning; (3) visual-spatial abilities that allow a person to create representations of the world and to think in pictures; (4) musical -- rhythmic abilities that present sensitivity to pitch and rhythms of sounds; (5) bodily -- kinesthetic abilities that contribute to motor skills and graceful movement; (6) naturalist abilities that allow someone to observe patterns in nature and to understand natural as well as human-made systems; (7) intrapersonal-introspective abilities that permit someone to become deeply aware of personal feelings and purposes; and (8) interpersonal abilities -- the social capacity that makes it possible to work effectively with others. The assessment of interpersonal abilities at the high school level is the focus of this presentation.

Models from the Marketplace

Peer evaluation of interpersonal intelligence has gained credibility in the workplace over the past decade. Criticism or suggestions from co-workers are taken seriously. The reason these observations are preferable is because peers see one another on a daily basis, know how well they carry out tasks, and are able to detect shortcomings. Management also supports team assessment because it is related to greater productivity (Edwards & Ewan, 1996; Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002).

Some practical models of peer evaluation in the marketplace are offered by large corporations such as Bank of America, Disney, Ford, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft and Motorola. These firms rely upon group perspective strategies to evaluate teamwork of individuals. Employees believe that the customary job performance review in which one person judges the work quality of subordinates on a random schedule is unfair and obsolete. Workers might ignore suggestions from a supervisor by rationalizing "the boss does not see me enough to know all of the things I do or how well I perform." (Hargrove 1998).

Because team evaluation is becoming common in business and industrial settings, students in middle school, high school and college should learn to evaluate the performance of their peers, reach accurate judgments about self-competence, and benefit from the constructive feedback of teammates. However, teachers who use cooperative learning admit that one of their most perplexing tasks is to identify the team skills demonstrated by each student. Teachers feel uncertain about how to make accurate and fair assessments in this arena. Students also express disappointment regarding evaluation of teamwork. There is widespread recognition that suitable measurement tools should be devised to improve assessment of interpersonal intelligence (Antil, Jenkins, Wayne, & Vadasy, 1998; Gillies, 2003).

Conditions for Assessing Interpersonal Intelligence

How should interpersonal intelligence be assessed? One suggestion is to present students with hypothetical situations and then rate their predictions of how they would expect to behave as acceptable evidence of interpersonal intelligence. This strategy is troubling because projections of imagined behavior could vary greatly from the way a person might actually respond. Instead, it seems more sensible to hold students accountable for behavior that can be verified by others rather than imagined conduct no one can confirm. Relying on multiple peer observers who have sufficient interactive experience means they can corroborate or refute self-impressions individuals give regarding their performance as team members. By aggregating teammate perceptions, greater reliability can be attained (Dittmann, 2003).

Teacher trust is a second condition that is necessary for assessment of interpersonal intelligence. Trust determines whether students are permitted to engage in peer and self-evaluation. Showing trust supports development because trust is an essential attitude for learning how to establish close and lasting relationships (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2003). One way teachers can model trust is by acknowledging relevance of peer observations and self impressions in assessment of team skills. In this arrangement teachers judge the quality of work produced by teams and results of individual tests while students get experience in fulfilling expectations that are encountered at the workplace.

Elements of Student Accountability

Accountability for students working in teams should be based on three elements. First, the focus should be on how individuals contribute to their team. Teachers of all age groups favor this condition for evaluation of their own performance. That is, teachers try to support achievement through helping everyone in the class. But, in the final analysis, each student is responsible for her or his own performance (Senge, et al., 2000). When this viewpoint of teachers is applied to team settings, students are not held responsible for the behavior of their teammates. Instead, student motivation to work together grows as individuals recognize they will be judged by team skills observed by peers along with individual performance on tests.

Second, teachers should share some responsibility with the students for evaluation of group learning. Teachers are commonly experts in their subject matter so they are the best qualified person to judge work products submitted by teams. On the other hand, educators cannot evaluate what happens in groups because they are seldom around to view the process of interaction. Even when present, teachers cannot tell how student initiatives affect the thinking of others. Students are disappointed when faculties ignore them as a source of information about how peers contribute to their learning and the outcomes of team effort. Team members are in the best position to identify teammates who influence them and can describe the nature of help given (Gillies, 2003).

A third aspect of this strategy involves comparing self-evaluation reports with observations of peers. Students are often exposed to national tests, state tests, and teacher made tests. In addition, self-evaluation skills are needed as a basis for making wise decisions in the contemporary environment characterized by over-choice and a workplace where collaborative efforts are necessary (Johnson & Johnson, 2002; Kagan, 2002). Cooperative learning offers an ideal environment for the comparison of self-impressions with observations made by peers. In this way, students can gain an ability to judge themselves. Guided practice in self-appraisal helps students become self critical, a vital quality for performing well in teams. The ability to self-evaluate enables us to know when to think well of ourselves and when to alter behavior so our actions more closely resembles the person we wish to become (Drucker, 1999).

In sum, accountability is more likely to be demonstrated when students know in advance the criteria for assessment and processes that teammates will apply for evaluating them. Teachers are implicated too because they must trust students to engage in evaluation of team learning and convey the necessity for authentic reporting of observations. The most credible way to find out whether desired competencies are being learned is to solicit perceptions of teammates. Students observe what happens in their groups, know how each teammate effects their thinking, and should be able to judge their own initiatives to enhance productivity. Frequent opportunities for peer and self-evaluation enable the students to practice skills they need to become better judges of functioning of groups in class, on the job, and at home.

Interpersonal Intelligence Inventory (III)

Teachers should be well informed about what occurs in group activities from the student point of view. Team members who complete the Interpersonal intelligence Inventory assess one another on 25 team skills covering a broad range of behaviors that are easily detected when interaction takes place over a reasonable duration. These team skills have been drawn from the literature about teaching and learning, creative thinking and critical thinking, group dynamics, and interpersonal communication (Gardner, 2000). The instrument is intended to: (1) identify teamwork skills that individual students show in cooperative learning groups, (2) provide anonymous feedback from teammates on competencies, (3) compare peer and self evaluations, (4) detect individual as well as group deficits to guide further instruction, (5) credit conscientious students for their initiatives to help others, (6) detect slackers who expect peers to do their work for them, (7) yield an easily understood documentation of social skills for inclusion in portfolios, and (8) establish a school data bank of teamwork skills.

Every student receives a profile form that contains anonymous feedback from teammates. Five conceptually-convenient skill clusters reveal the ways in which each person (1) attends to teamwork (for example, this peer does a fair share of the work expected of everyone), (2) seeks and shares information (for example, this peer brings reading materials for the team to examine), (3) communicates with teammates (for example, this peer encourages and recognizes contributions of others), (4) thinks critically and creatively (for example, this peer uses logic to challenge group thinking or work methods), and (5) gets along in the team (for example, this peer avoids using put-downs or blaming others for problems).

Students identify only skills that have been "very well demonstrated by each of their teammates," without estimating how often each of the behaviors occurred. Requiring frequency-type responses for the observation of 25 team skills as they apply to sustained interaction with four or five colleagues would be too difficult for anyone to recall. However, students are able to report overall impressions about the behavior of teammates, whether someone consistently acts in certain ways as defined by criteria. The proportion of peers who confirm that behaviors were fulfilled is a more useful indicator than is frequency of occurrence. In fact, this response format coincides with the way most people make decisions about behavior of others in daily life.

Scoring and Feedback

Students complete peer and self-assessments by circling skills on a twenty-five item form that individuals have performed well during team work. Tallies are converted to percentage scores based on the number of observers (e.g., 4 teammates would each count for 25%; 5 teammates each count for 20%). Scoring can be by hand, scanning, or by Excel (can be sent via email). The Excel-email scoring procedure offers the advantage of saving class time that would be required for administering and scoring, enabling makeup evaluations for absentees, responding in a confidential setting, and receiving private individual feedback outside class.

The feedback form acquaints students with peer and self-impressions of his or her team skills. By considering both sets of viewpoints, achievements and shortcomings can be more accurately identified. The formative evaluation column informs students about how they are doing while plenty of sessions in the course remain to alter behavior. A summative column records responses for the second round of perceptions at the end of the course. Finally, the change column identifies improvement, lack of change, or regression between the time of formative and summative evaluation.
Field-testing with Adolescents

The Interpersonal Intelligence Inventory (III) was extensively applied with adults before field-testing with students in grades nine through twelve. A school that serves 2,000 students of mostly middle class backgrounds was chosen because the faculty applies cooperative learning as their common method of instruction. Most teachers volunteered to participate in the field-test. Ten of them were chosen to represent a broad range of curriculum subjects. One of the classes for each teacher participant was provided an orientation that consisted of five lessons about team evaluation and a booklet containing definitions for each of the 25 team skills. Students took their booklet home to show parents and kept it for referral in class. The 303 students of the ten teachers were assigned to teams in which membership remained constant for a month. During this time they practiced team skills and, at the end, completed an assessment of performance by peers and themselves.

Teachers were the source of expert judgment for determination of content validity. All ten teachers reported that the cooperative skills necessary for acceptable performance in high school classes are included and well defined by the Interpersonal Intelligence Inventory. The search for another instrument to assess teamwork skills that contained information on psychometric indicators was unsuccessful. Therefore, correlation with an existing measure of the same function was impossible. Instead, a more stringent method had to be applied. Expressed behavior was compared with observed behavior (Campbell, 1996). The self-reports of (N = 303) students and their collective reports (N = 1,136) were compared to ascertain agreement levels for all of the 25 teamwork skills.

To rely on peer observations and self reports as performance predictors in team settings, the agreement level between these sources has to exceed 50%. When levels of agreement reach 70%, there is ample justification to conclude that specific skills have been demonstrated. Levels of agreement on demonstration of team skills ranged from 87% to 99%. On 23 of the 25 skills, agreement between self-report and perception of peers was at least 90%. These findings suggest that, when using the Interpersonal Intelligence Inventory, oriented students can be trusted to honestly report perceptions about peer and self-fulfillment of specific team skills. This conclusion was corroborated by responses on a separate survey that revealed 90% of teachers and 88% of students felt comfortable about the overall truthfulness of student evaluation of teamwork.

Internal consistency of the inventory was evaluated by analysis of the student team scoring forms. Cronbach's alpha coefficient provides a floor estimate for reliability on the overall instrument. Total alpha coefficient for 303 self-reports was 0.79 while corresponding alpha for 1,136 collective peer observations was 0.87. These estimates are in the high range for group analyses. In addition, the Flesch-Kincaid Index found that the reading level is 6.85. This means that a sixth or seventh-grade reader can understand the inventory.

Educational Implications

Student Portfolios. The common goals of portfolios are to help students acquire self-evaluation skills, learn to monitor personal progress, recognize accomplishments, and identify deficits that require more work or tutoring Ninety percent of field-test teachers reported that the Team Skills Profile Form describes student behavior better than does a letter grade or a conduct mark and therefore ought to be placed in student portfolios. If profiles are added to portfolios of grade 9 through grade 12 students, teachers can know more about the team skills of newcomers to class and strive to help improve skills that have yet to be achieved. Instead of discovering anew the team skills and deficiencies of each individual, teachers can benefit from peer observations reported in previous courses as well as other current classes. Recordkeeping is a common way to monitor basic academic skills and should be applied for social skills too.

Parent Involvement. Another benefit of keeping team skill records is to support the participation of parents in the education of their adolescents. Some parents excuse themselves from a guidance role by claiming that teens must become independent and manage their own affairs. Other parents believe that, in secondary school, it becomes impossible to know and relate to all of their child's teachers. But, regardless of parent occupation, they are aware that team skills are needed at work and in the home. In this connection, 80% of field-test teachers felt that parents should be expected to join them in teaching students to attain teamwork skills. Many parents have employment experience that could be relevant to structured discussions about teamwork with their children. Orienting parents to the teamwork skills expected in the classroom could enable the faculty and family to cooperate in teaching and reinforcing skills in both environments. Because parents have to guide their daughters and sons over a period of many years, team skills records would allow them to better monitor child progress reported as portfolio data.

Parents and teachers are sometimes defensive when they are together. But when findings from the Interpersonal Intelligence Inventory are discussed as a basis for mutual effort, neither party is likely to blame the other regarding inaccurate perceptions of a student. It is not a matter of whether a parent or a teacher has the more correct perspective. Instead, the adults examine self-impressions of one adolescent and how that person is viewed by peers who are teammates. In this situation teachers and parents have good reason to unite in helping adolescents reconcile any disparities between reports from peers and self-impressions.

Special Education Students. Individualized Education Plans (IEP) cannot fully provide the information needed on how well inclusion is working and ways to improve integration practices. Are disabled students acquiring team skills they were placed in regular classrooms to learn? How do disabled students see themselves in comparison with the way non-disabled peers perceive them? What are the team skills where they lag behind classmates who are not in special education? What team skills do special education students easily gain and which ones appear most difficult for them? By compiling group profiles for learning disabled, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disordered, mentally challenged, and physically handicapped students, teachers can determine how programs predicated on supporting social relationship are succeeding and failing in the estimate of special education students and non-disabled peers. Profiles can also reveal how special education students perceive acceptance and support received from their classmates.

Gender Considerations. An examination was made of gender observations in the field-test with 303 adolescents. It was found that self-impression scores for the 151 female students were more favorable than the scores 152 males gave themselves on 17 of 25 team skills. Further, when students evaluated all the members of their team, girls received more favorable scores than boys on 23 of 25 skills. These findings suggest that disseminating such information could counteract other influences that deflate self-esteem of adolescent females. These results underscore the potential benefits of heterogeneous grouping since the greater perceived competence of girls in team skills can provide boys proximate models to learn from.

Teachers are the most common source of recommendation for leadership opportunities and awards in the school. When findings from the Interpersonal Intelligence Inventory are considered to be one of the multiples bases for making nominations, girls may be chosen for leadership positions more often than if systematic observations reported by peers are unavailable.


Learning to work cooperatively with peers deserves high priority in the emerging interdependent environment. When students become aware regarding the growing importance of teamwork, cooperative skills are usually added to their definition of what it will take to become successful. Teachers and students are agreed that methods of evaluating group work should be improved. One way to overcome this limitation is administering the Interpersonal Intelligence Inventory. Profiles from the inventory reveal acquisition of teamwork skills that should be a part of students' portfolios. In addition, schools should establish a data bank of team skills to evaluate institutional progress and recognize achievements. Adolescents need to realize that each of us is not only the individual we suppose ourselves to be, but also the person perceived by other people as well. Learning to merge these impressions can be a key to self-improvement.

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