In 1979, Larry Michaelsen, a marketing professor at the University of Oklahoma saw his class more than triple in size. Originally he taught his course through a case-based socratic seminar approach. However, with his increasing class size, his colleagues suggested switching to a more traditional lecture model.
Nevertheless, Michaelsen strongly felt that problem solving discussions facilitated deeper learning beyond what was possible through a traditional lecture. With the challenge of an rapidly increasing class size and the unwillingness to trade effectiveness with ease, Michaelsen developed Team-Based Learning (TBL).
Team-Based Learning allowed Michaelsen to incorporate application based discussions in a more collaborative learning environment. Within TBL, students are held responsible for individual work and team contributions. Thus peer evaluation was implemented as a system that ensures accountability within a team, a critical component of success in a TBL course.
This post describes peer evaluation and how Michaelsen suggests it should be done. We’ll get into the details of how he suggests structuring peer evaluation and touch upon some potential challenges with his approach.
How exactly does Michaelsen’s method work?
Michaelsen recommends that peer evaluation scores received by students should become an independent component of their course grade.
Students are assigned 10 points per team member excluding themselves. For instance, if there’s a team of 7 people, each student will receive 60 points to allocate amongst the other students in the group.
A distinctive feature of Michaelsen’s approach is that students are required to discriminate scoring among their team members which means that they can’t give the same score to all their. Moreover, students are restricted to giving a minimum score of 7 and a maximum of 13.
Since students have to give different scores to their peers, this method forces students to thoroughly consider their peers’ contributions to the team. This, in turn, translated into more thoughtful feedback and a higher opportunity for all team members to improve. Additionally, qualitative feedback is also encouraged at the end of this activity so that students can provide rationale for the scores they give to peers.
Potential issues with Michaelsen’s approach to Peer Evaluation
There are two related issues that arise from this approach to peer evaluation.
The first is in regard to student satisfaction. Occasionally, students complain about the fact that this method requires them to discriminate among their team members. Some students genuinely believe everyone has contributed equally, however, they are forced to discriminate scoring. This creates dissatisfaction, complaints and generally a feeling that the methodology is not fair.
This dissatisfaction in turn, engenders a second issue - some students try to play the system. They do this by colluding on scoring such that each student’s score averages out to be the same after all team members’ have submitted their peer evaluations.