Fall 2020: Looking Backward and Forward

Time once again to evaluate my teaching successes and failures. As usual, I will focus on the failures, but to start, a happy accident: discovering setting options in Google Forms. I still use Google Forms for students’ teammate evaluations. I gave students these instructions for this past semester’s evaluations:

You have 10 points to distribute across members of your team according to each person’s contribution to team projects. These projects include course notes on Google Docs, reading response breakout discussions, and presentations. For example: If one person did all the work, award that person 10 points and the other members of the team 0 points. If one person did 70 percent of the work, a second person did 30 percent of the work, and the rest of the team did 0 percent of the work, award the first person 7 points, the second person 3 points, and everyone else 0 points. Total points awarded across all members of your team must equal 10 or your response will be discarded. I will use people’s responses to calculate an average ranking for each member of your team. This ranking determines the teammate evaluation portion of your course grade [as many as 50 points out of more than 1,000, or approximately five percent].

So, in my mind, this is a very low stakes assessment, without forced ranking. The five members of one team, in fact, noticed that they would all earn the full 50 points if they gave each other scores of 2. To me it was yet one more sign of their ability to collaborate productively.

But as usual, some other students submitted a completed Google Form multiple times or ranked their team members with, for example, scores of 10, 9, 9, 9, and 9. However, when designing the Google Form for another class, I serendipitously clicked on settings (gear icon) when trying to do something else. I was greeted by this dialog box:

As shown, users can capture respondents’ email addresses and limit people to one response. Checking these boxes makes it easy to prevent and decipher students’ errors. One can even convert a Google Form into an auto-graded quiz by going to the Quizzes tab. Maybe this is quite familiar to you, but it was new for me. I’ll be making use of the settings options from this point forward.

Eight students (out of fifty-four) emailed me complaints about the teammate evaluation portion of the grade once I had entered the information in the Canvas LMS. They perceived earning 20 or 30 points out of 50 as “failing,” even though I explicitly inform students in multiple ways that the final course grade is based solely on total points accumulated over the semester, not on the results of individual assessment instruments. I think students’ mistaking perception for reality is in part due to me listing the teammate evaluation as a 50-point assignment on Canvas. When students don’t earn the maximum possible points shown, they react as if I’m at fault for their performance. Next semester, I will see if Canvas allows me to label this item as worth 0 points, to make it look like the teammate rankings are “bonus” points.

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