F2-TEAM2-3 - Assessment of openness as a dynamic team skill in order to counteract “free-riding”

3. Research Full Paper
Anders A Jansson1 , Rebecca Cort1
1 Uppsala University, Department of Information Technology

In this Full Paper, we focus on the assessment of dynamic team skills as a way to understand individual contributions in group projects. Preparing students for the challenges they are likely to encounter in theirfuture work tasks is an important focus of higher education. For STEM students, this includes to work with complex and multifaceted problems that are best solved by a team of individuals coming together and contributing with different knowledge and perspectives of the problem at hand. While group work is a popular instructional tool in higher education, it is not without its problems and students often report issues with so called “free-riders” not contributing to the final group deliverable. From a teachers’ perspective it is difficult to determine how to take differences in group members’ contributions into account when assigning grades to the group project. One way to address this issue is the use of peer- and self-assessments to provide insights into each student’s contribution to the group project. However, this catches just one dimension of teamwork. Another important dimension in need of attention is the development of team skills. Accordingly, this paper addresses the challenges of assessing team skills and discusses how teachers in higher education can scaffold students in acquiring the team skills necessary for their future work roles. We start with the general hypothesis that the more openness in a group, the less likely it is to encounter the issue of free-riding. In order to measure openness, we make a novel contribution and operationalize openness as an aggregation of eight different variables. These variables derive from a questionnaire for peer assessments of team skills, which is a tool for students to ”discuss and rate their relative contribution to the effective functioning of the team”(Gibbs, 1994). The aggregation is framed in terms of different strategies for openness. By comparing two different groups of students, we expect to find that program students who know each other well after several years as classmates will exhibit more openness than a group of students who just recently came together for a shared course. A total of 59 students from two different courses participated in the study. The results show differences between the two groups in terms of openness: students with a history of working together exhibited more openness. To mitigate free riding in student group work, teachers should help students develop openness, rather than aiming for a culture of control. One limitation of this conclusion is the fact that openness may take time to foster. The results therefore speak in favour of advocating group work that run over a longer period of time. Also, the results provide insights into group work that should be considered in course design.

Keywords: Peer-assessment, group work, team skills

Gibbs, G. (1994). Learning in teams: A tutor guide.Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.