Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Assessing Collaborative Efforts

Before the course begins, the instructor should not assume that his or her learners possess the appropriate learning strategies, knowledge, and the attitude necessary to successfully navigate within a collaborative learning community.  As George Siemens (Laureate, 2008) identifies that “in a society where individual contributions are highly acknowledged, collaboration learning communities can be challenged for many students,” as it represents a loss of self.  Many students who’ve reveled in individualized recognition may not understand how to operate within collaborative environment and still excel.    With this in mind, the instructor must create a trusting environment for individuals to work within.  To help ease the unsure of those reluctant learners, educators must create a mix of individualized and community-based environments (Siemens, 2008).   Palloff and Pratt (2005) suggest that instructors set the stage for collaboration by providing: (1) an explanation of the importance of collaborative work, (2) clear guidelines for completing the work, (3) an agenda and instructions for the activities; and (4) ensuring that students are comfortable with the technology in use.  The instructor must also create an environment for students to meet, complete work and determine what the “rules of engagement” might be.  Instructors must then model, guide and evaluate the process (Palloff & Pratt, 2005).

            Assessment (evaluation) of the collaborative process should be fair and direct, based on stated outcomes, and equitable (Laureate, 2008).  As the vision of education has broadened beyond a classroom confined experience, so has assessment broadened beyond mark-based assessment and should find basis in degree of student growth and within authentic assessment (Laureate, 2008).  Palloff and Pratt (2005) note several principles to guide student assessment: “design learner-centered assessments that include self-reflection; design and include grading rubrics, include collaborative assessments;  provide guidelines  and model good feeback; use assessment techniques that fit in context and align with learning objectives; design assessments that are clear, easy to understand, and likely to work in the online environment; and ask for and incorporate student input.  This helps to provide a road map for students as they work through the collaborative tasks.  This is especially important for those reluctant to collaborate.  Andrew Marcinek, an instructional technologist at Burlington High School in Burlington, MA, shares some of the principles for collaborative assessment as Palloff and Pratt.  He finds that when assessing, instructors should (1) Set clear objectives and tasks;  (2) Allow for open collaboration; (3) Allow access to learning tools; (4) Limit explicit direction; and (5): Define clear expectations (Marcinek, 2011). 

Marcinek and Siemens both understand that collaboration is skill that must be addressed within education today in order for learners to be successful in the global society in which we now live. 
“Collaborative assessment must be part of our learning today. We, as educators are doing our students a disservice if we don’t attempt to make this type of assessment available to our students. There are few professions and work environments that only focus on individual competencies. Most modern work environments involve some type of collaboration or connected problem solving to enhance their corporation or product” (Marcinek, 2011). 
With the previous mentioned methods, those reluctant to collaboration may find themselves more apt to participate and eventually become more comfortable as their entire sense of self will not be lost as they may at first expect.  Continuous self assessment and collaborative feedback keeps them constantly involved in the collaborative community. 
“The more we engage our students in a process of ongoing evaluation of their own performance, the more meaningful the online course will be to them.  The more we engage them in working with one another in both collaborative activity and collaborative assessment, the more likely they are to engage in a learning community that will sustain them beyond the end of the course” (Palloff & Pratt, 2005, p. 53). 
Throughout this entire process, the instructor should be closely monitoring what is happening with learning individually and collaboratively.  If a learner is still reluctant to participate within the collaborative learning community, the instructor must address the issue and determine what needs to be done in order to insure that learner receives the support he or she needs in order to be successful.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2008). (n.d.).  Assessment of collaboration learning.  [Video Production]. Available from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2008). (n.d.).  Learning communities.  [Video Production]. Available from

Marcinek, A. (2011, February 16). Importance of collaborative assessment in a 21st century classroom.  [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


  1. Setting the guiding principles is very important and the use of rubric for assessment will help the participant to determine their level at the end of the task. With the issue of a noncontributing participant, the assessment plan will state the conditions. However, as a result of varied challenges in terms of personal issues, technology and others, it might be necessary for the instructor to give such participant necessary support.

  2. It is so true that when learners are reluctant to participate within the collaborative learning community, the instructor needs to address the issue and determine what needs to be done in order to make sure that the learner receives the support needed to become successful within a collaborative learning community. It's also very possible that the reluctant student prefers working independently and has a learning style that is more conducive to individual assignments. When handling this type of student requires patience, understanding and the ability to motivate him/her to work successfully with his/her peers. It is also important to highlight that most people view online learning as a way to work and learn at their own time and pace. The importance of collaborative activities is never mentioned before enrollment into online programs. College advisors should disclose the online formats of their schools before students enroll into classes.