Collaborative Grades

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First off, the "Shape of the Thing" exercise worked pretty well. It would have worked better with more samples of each genre though. It was hard for the students to draw the shape of a proposal or conference paper because they only had one of each type to look at--more samples would have made the shape easier to see. But it was a real success in that they were able to see how the parts/shapes were all related, how a proposal became a conference paper became an article. I'm thinking when I do this next time I will provide more samples of the genres OR I will use it to help students understand process, getting them to draw, for example, notes and outline and rough draft and revision. That should be interesting and successful. Speaking of things that worked but could have worked better, the grad students worked collaboratively on a research project, documenting the local histories of the English department, the college, and the university. Collaborative grades are always a bit tricky, I think. Or at least I think that because I remember my own educational history, growing up as the hyped-up, over-eager, anal-retentive dweeb who ended up doing all the work because I was so obsessed with grades. So the problem I have with any kind of group grades in the classes I teach is what to do about that dweeb in my own classes and also what to do with the total slacker. In other words, I've always struggled with the issue of giving a group a grade but making sure that grade reflected individual as well as group effort. I thought I had the answer. I had each group member turn in an individual group report in which she or he reported on the group dynamics and thus in which he or she also had a chance to report anyone in the group who didn't do the work. I figured this would be an equalizing mechanism; if everyone reported that Student X didn't do any work, then I could factor that in to Student X's grade. I've tried this before in my undergrad classes, a web authoring class specifically. It worked like a charm. But now I'm not so sure. I fear I haven't taken into account the extent to which group and peer pressures prevent an honest evaluation from any individual. Specifically, I was meeting with someone from one of the groups about her final project and she mentioned some problems she had with someone in the group and the work that someone did but none of that made it into her individual report, which was all glowy and "Yay group!" and stuff. So, Bitsters, on the one had I have this suggestion about group grades. On the other, I don't know that it works. So, on yet another hand I'm wondering how to handle group grades. Do people live and die by the final work of the group? Is there some way to factor in individual effort?
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.