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Peer Ratings Revisited: Focus On Teamwork, Not Ability

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.779.1 - 6.779.8

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Richard Layton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2230

Peer Ratings Revisited: Focus on Teamwork, Not Ability

Richard A. Layton, Matthew W. Ohland Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology / Clemson University


In a previous study, we determined that student peer ratings used to assign individual grades from group grades showed no effects relating to gender but significant effects relating to race. A likely explanation of this result was that students seem to base ratings on perceived ability in- stead of real contribution to the group effort. To overcome this tendency, we modified the peer- rating instrument, instructed students on the behavioral characteristics of good teamwork, and focused the student peer ratings on those characteristics. This paper presents an analysis of peer ratings using the modified instrument and compares these results to the results of the previous study. Using the new approach, student peer ratings showed no effects relating to race, suggest- ing that the new approach has the desired effect. However, contrary to prior studies, a gender bias is observed. In this study, women rate other women much lower than they rate men, al- though men’s and women’s average course grades are not significantly different. We conclude that our efforts to focus student peer ratings on real contributions to the group effort have been only partially successful.

I. Introduction

A well-known drawback of student group work is the possibility that one or two students will do most of the work and that one or more students will “hitchhike,” that is, fail to do their share of the work but get the same high grade as the rest of the group. This problem can be addressed in part by using the peer-evaluation system described by Brown1 for assigning individual grades based on a group grade. For this technique to be effective, groups should be assigned and coached by the instructor according to the established practices of cooperative learning.

In recent studies, Kaufman, Felder, and Fuller2 (KFF) and Layton and Ohland3 (L&O I) examine the incidence of hitchhiking and other aspects of group work with the aim of addressing common concerns about the validity of peer evaluations. The main difference between the two studies are that the students in KFF are primarily non-minorities (89%) while the students in L&O I are pri- marily African-American (87%). “Minorities” includes African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students; “non-minorities” includes students of all other ethnic backgrounds.

The results of these two prior studies—one at a majority-black institution (NC A&T) and the other at a majority-white institution (NC State)—are consistent, showing no effects relating to gender but significant effects relating to race. While racial prejudice could not be ruled out, a more likely explanation of this result was that students tend to give low ratings to those who are

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Ohland, M., & Layton, R. (2001, June), Peer Ratings Revisited: Focus On Teamwork, Not Ability Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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