One of the standard axioms in higher education is that students hate group work. While there may be some truth to that statement, I think the more accurate version is that students hate poorly designed and structured group work.
Admittedly, one of the most challenging parts of teaching is the use of group assignments and teamwork in our classes. Instructors use group work for a variety of reasons—reducing the number of projects that need grading, helping students learn from each other’s strengths, or teaching teamwork skills valued in the field—but the fact remains that this approach is tough for everyone involved.
Part of this challenge arises because of the difficulty in structuring and managing teams. Students don’t have the experience to do this themselves, and many of us lack the expertise and/or time to teach them effective teamwork practices.
That’s where a piece of software called CATME comes in. CATME (Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness) is a system of web-based tools that support instructors in managing student teams. CATME includes a tool for assigning students to teams based on a variety of adjustable criteria, a tool to train them to work effectively in teams, a peer evaluation tool that allows them to rate teammates’ contributions to group projects, and a tool to train them to do this peer evaluation in effective and consistent ways. And best of all, this is all based on empirical research about behaviors associated to successful teamwork.
The CITL has purchased a campus-wide license for CATME for 2017-18, so all IUB faculty members can sign up to use CATME in their classes. We will be developing workshops about CATME—and team-based learning more broadly—during the fall semester. And we would be interested in hearing about your uses of this tool in your courses, so please let us know how CATME has impacted your use of group projects.
Know colleagues who have struggled with group activities? Suggest CATME as a possible tool to manage the teamwork, while the CITL can help with larger assignment design. More on CATME is available at http://info.catme.org/.