Accountability and Grades
In this phase you need to:
- Decide on your grading scheme
- Consider having students set grade weights
There are three things we should do to encourage productive student behaviours in the TBL classroom.
- Students must be encouraged to individually prepare.
- Students must be encouraged to contribute to their team.
- Students must be made aware that they will be accountable for their contributions to their team.
In order to accomplish these goals, we must incorporate three important corresponding measures into the overall course design to ensure that we encourage the behaviours we want. These are:
- Individual performance
- Team performance
- Contribution to the team
An important measure of an individual’s performance comes from the individual Readiness Assurance Test scores. These scores give instructors a measure of individual accountability for the quality and completeness of each student’s preparation. This component must be a substantial enough portion of the final grade so that a student feels compelled to prepare, but not so large that the Individual Readiness Assurance Test (iRAT) turns into high-stakes testing. There are often other measures of individual performance that are not related to TBL, including individual assignments, midterms, and final examinations. Students are sometimes shocked at first at the low individual scores on the iRATs. Typical averages are 65-70%; that’s perfectly normal. Students may need to be reassured that the RATs are working as designed, that they constitute only a small portion of their final grade, and that the higher team grade on the tRATs (typically 85-95%) will balance out the lower iRAT score.
The team performance measures come from all team activities that are graded. These include the team Readiness Assurance Test scores and, in some courses, the Application Activities.
The measure of a member’s contribution to their team typically comes from a peer evaluation process. Peer evaluations hold students accountable for their level of participation. Peer evaluations also reassure students that loafers won’t benefit from the typically higher team grade; this is a happy side effect of the process.
Typical Grade Schemes
There is a wide range of grading schemes found in different Team-Based Learning courses. Course context, institutional culture, instructor goals, and course goals all need to be considered when you construct the grading scheme that is appropriate for your course. In some institutional environments, policy or local norms may not tolerate having a grade component like peer evaluation where students evaluate other students. For example, in some very competitive environments such as pre-med, it can be very difficult to sell a grading scheme that incorporates any summative peer evaluation process where one student assesses another student in a way that affects their final course grade. In these environments, the formative styles of peer evaluation are more commonly implemented, since they don’t affect student’s grades directly.
One of the big decisions here is whether to grade 4S tasks. There is no consensus on whether 4S tasks should be graded. Those that don’t grade are happy with level of engagement and like that they can ratchet up the difficulty of tasks without upsetting the students too much. Other people do grade the 4S tasks and are happy with the process. You need to make these decision for yourself and your context. A place to start is searching the TBL listserv archives about merits of grading or not grading activities. There have been many good discussion about this on the listserv.
The TBL grade component in a prototypical TBL course with ungraded Application Activities (i.e. only iRAT and tRAT grades) can be as low as 25%. In these courses, the other 75% of grades might come from traditional components like individual essays, individual reports, midterms, and finals. There is considerable range on how TBL course grades are divided between individual and team work in different courses and contexts. In some courses, the grades are 100% based on TBL; these courses most often have graded Application Activities.
Grading Scheme in course with ungraded 4S tasks
TBL Components (25%-35%)
- Individual Readiness Assurance tests (10%-15%)
- Team Readiness assurance tests (10%-15%)
- Peer Evaluation (5%)
Traditional Components (65%-75%)
- Final Examinations
- Individual Assignments
Student Grade Weighting Activity
Many TBL practitioners use a grade weight setting exercise in a class early in the semester. Letting students have a say in grade weight setting can help with student “buy-in” to TBL.
Instruction to Students
Representatives of the teams will set the percentage of the course grade that will be determined by scores in each of the major performance areas (Individual Performance, Team Performance and Team Maintenance) during the first class period. Team representatives will also decide on the relative weight of the Readiness Assurance Tests vs. the final exam within the Individual Performance area. Grade weights will be set for the class using the following procedures:
1) Each team will set preliminary weights and select a member to meet with other teams’ representatives.
2) Team representatives will meet in the center of the room and develop a consensus (i.e., every representative has to be in agreement about the grade weights for the class as a whole.)
3) The only limitations on your grade weight decisions will be that:
- a minimum of 10% of the total grade must be assigned to each major performance area.
- within the individual performance area, at least 50% of the grade must be based on the final exam.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are common student concerns about grades?
In any kind of group work, students often have concerns that their grade depends on their less capable peers. That is one reason to keep the TBL portion of course grade modest. In most of our TBL courses, the TBL portion is only 25% and the other 75% is traditional things like individual assignments, midterms, and finals. In that 25% portion it is often 10% iRAT, 10% tRAT and 5% peer evaluation. If you have 5 modules with 5 Readiness Assurance Processes than individual iRATs are only worth 2% a time and tRATs are only worth 2% a time.
How do I handle student that don’t participate or “free ride”?
It is not a problem. This problem actually disappears when we get the task right. When an instructor comes to me with this problem, the first place we look for the source of the problem is the assignment itself. Team-Based Learning could easily be called decision based learning…teams are naturally pretty good at decisions (think of courtroom juries). Large product based assignments often spawn group dysfunction. If I am a C student and want a C at the end of the course and you are an A student…you are likely going to be unhappy with the quality I do….does the A student step in and redo the C students grade. This will likely make everyone in the group unhappy. Get the question right and everything seems to fall into place.
Is peer evaluation really necessary?
Absolutely – the peer evaluation process needs to have enough teeth that good students are rewarded for their work and students who don’t prepare as well or don’t contribute don’t benefit by the higher team grades.