Group work is a great strategy to use in the secondary classroom in order to to improve student learning. But group work sometimes requires a form of problem solving on its own. While the goal in these classroom collaborations is to equally distribute the work to solve a problem or produce a product, there maybe a student (or two) who does not contribute as much as the other members of the group. This student may let his or her fellow students do the bulk of the work, and this student may even share the group grade. This student is the** "slacker" **in the group, a member who can frustrate the other members of the group. This is especially a problem if the some of the group work is done outside the classroom.

So what can a teacher do about assessing this slacker student who does not collaborate with others or who contributes little to the finished product? How can a teacher be fair and award the appropriate grade to those members of a group who have worked effectively? Is equal participation in group work even possible?

**The Reasons for Using Group Work in Class**

While these concerns might make a teacher think about giving up group work entirely, there are still powerful reasons for using groups in class:

- Students take ownership of the subject matter.
- Students develop communication and teamwork skills.
- Students work together and "teach" each other.
- Students can bring individual skill sets to a group.
- Students learn to plan more effectively and manage their time.

Here is one more reason to use groups

- Students can learn to how to assess their work and the work of others.

At the secondary level, the success of group work can be measured in many different ways, but the most common is through a grade or points. Instead of having the teacher determine how a group's participation or project will be scored, teachers can grade the project as a whole and then turn the individual participant grades over to the group as a lesson in negotiation.

Turning this responsibility over to the students can address the problem of grading the "slacker" in the group by having student peers distribute points based on the evidence of work contributed.

### **Designing the Point or Grade System:**

If the teacher chooses to use peer to peer grade distribution, the teacher must be clear that the project under review will be graded to meet standards outlined in a rubric. The total number of points available for the completed project, however, would be **based on the number of people in each group**. For example, the top score (or an "A") awarded to a student for a project or participation that meets the highest standard could be set at 50 points.

- If there are 4 students in the group, the project would be worth 200 points (4 students X 50 points each).
- If there are 3 students in the group, the project would be worth 150 points (3 students X 50 points each).
- If there are 2 members of the group, the project would be worth 100 points (2 students X 50 points each).

### **Peer to Peer Grading and Student Negotiation**

Each student would be be awarded points using the following formula:

1. The teacher would first grade the project as an"A" or "B" or "C", etc. based on the criteria established in the rubric.

2. The teacher would convert that grade into its numerical equivalent:

- For example, the teacher may determine that the project should be awarded the equivalent of a
**"B"**:- If the project had four students and was worth 200 points, the project would receive 172 points;
- if the project had three students and was worth 150 points, the project would receive 130 points;
- if the project had two students and was worth 100 points, the project would be awarded 86 points.

3. After the project receives a grade from the teacher, the **students in the group would negotiate on how to divide these points for a grade. **Each student **must have evidence **of what he or she did to earn points. Students could equitably divide the points:

- 172 points (4 students) or
- 130 points (3 students) or
- 86 points (two students)

- If all students worked equally and have the evidence to show they should all get the same grade, then each student would receive 43 points out of the original 50 points available. Each student would receive an 86%.
- However, in the group of three students, if two students have the evidence that that they did the bulk of the work, they could negotiate for more points. They could negotiate for 48 points each (96%) and leave the "slacker" with 34 points (68%).

4. Students confer with the teacher for the distribution of points supported by evidence.

### **Results of Peer to Peer Grading**

Having students participate in how they are graded makes the assessment process transparent. In these negotiations, all students are responsible for providing evidence of the work they did in completing the project.

Peer to peer assessment can be a motivating experience. When teachers may not be able to motivate students, this form of peer pressure may get the desired results.

It is recommended that the negotiations for awarding points be supervised by the teacher to ensure fairness. The teacher can retain the ability to override a group's decision.

Using this strategy can provide students an opportunity advocate for themselves, a real world skill they will need after they leave school.