This started out as a comment on Julia’s blog post on group assessment and social learning techs, but has now become a post on my blog because I haven’t found the way to put hyperlinks into a comment.

Yes, these questions about group assessments don’t go away, do they? I agree that group assessments are extremely valuable but as a learner have also found them personally hard at times. It’s another activity that needs scaffolding if it’s to work. In my current learning development role, students talk about issues with their group work. Visiting or revisiting the reasons for and issues in doing group work seems to be helpful, as it isn’t just about the marks at the end.

In terms of using technology, I was thinking that blogging while doing group assessment could be quite good. Would it be good if students blog the work for a group assessment as they go so that other group members and the teacher could see whether different group members are taking part and support if not? The task might still be to produce a group presentation, but the individual work could be shown on blogs. Mindmaps, audio, photos and video could also be part of the group pres – using 1 tool. I think you said earlier the students are using blogs as journals, so they’d be familiar with the tool. Perhaps journals could be suspended for a while.

When I’ve facilitated group assessments with students, I’ve always tried to give students some class time to talk together about the work face to face – say 20 minutes every so often. Actually some of this time could be collaboratively composing rather than just talking about their planned work. It gives the teacher a chance to see the dynamics and help out if need be.

If we tell them they have to work on it out of class only I think the group thing is much more risky. For practical reasons, partly. Students have such varied and usually compressed timetables – what with part-time work, family commitments, transport issues etc so it actually is often really hard for them to get together. And relationships are not necessarily comfortable or safe.

In situations where students are prevented by distance from getting together, I notice that block courses still play a large role – it’s hard to substitute for face to face. Video conferencing could help though, and the Google Plus option Vickel showed us.

This relates to Hugh’s thought-provoking comments on Flipped Classrooms here

Class time to focus on things like effective group processes might be one benefit of flipping. It means enabling / trusting students to do some of the content gathering out of class, as we are doing in this course. Reflection, as mentioned in the Miller (2012) article Hugh cited, is important for all forms of learning. The most important learnings are not always comfortable.

The affective aspects are at least as important as the cognitive domain – and a key factor in success and retention too. Thinking about this in relation to our development as educators, an implication of the Gillen and Barton article is that that we could use technology to collaborate more as teachers, so that we combine our strengths in using different tools rather than having to be expert in everything. I’m rapidly realising that there aren’t enough hours in my life for this!

Miller, A. (2012). Five best practices for the flipped classroom.  Retrieved from

Gillen, J. & Barton, C. (2010). Digital Literacies: A Research Briefing by the Technology Enhanced Learning Phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme. Retrieved from


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  1. Thanks for your thoughts about collaborative assessments. We are very fortunate that in Foundation Studies we have (some) computer lab time allocated with students. So we have opportunities to provide time and space as they work in their groups through planning and then on to creation of their collaborative presentations. As we mingle with this process we can sometimes make suggestions about things like how to offer feedback, what respectful phrases work well to enhance ongoing learning community relationships, what phrases tend to trigger resistance and defensiveness. I feel I have much more to learn about offering students information about these kinds of group learning skills in the face to face environment and am keen to try to do this in a way which is transferrable to the on-line environment so students might work ‘remotely’ in the ways you suggest.

    First of all, though, I realise I have a lot to learn about collaborative exchanges in this kind of e-environment. I don’t really know how to ‘collaboratively construct knowledge’ on-line, only face to face. I am enjoying reading what others have to say, but am less certain about responding. I mistrust my motives – do I just want to respond for the sake of completing the assessment requirement of being an active participant on-line, do I just want to have the last word, do I want to rush to reassure that I had already thought of that? These may be questions for my therapist more than for other participants, but they are a new layer of complexity which is not present in the traditional model of writing for an audience of one – the assessor. As you say, the affective elements are at least as significant as the cognitive. When students have already had negative experiences in education (which by definition probably most of our Foundation Studies students have) we have to be especially vigilant.

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