Collaboration and Assessment

Collaboration and Assessment

A classroom without some opportunity for students to collaborate is uncommon. Teachers encourage students to talk and share when doing group work, studying for tests, and class discussions. But collaboration during assessments is prohibited.

Jennifer Carey states in her recent article “Is It Plagiarism or Collaboration?” that “when collaboration takes place during assessment, we deem it plagiarism or cheating.” Carey goes on to ask: “Should [teachers] ever stymie collaboration among our students?”

We do live in a society that encourages and promotes sharing. Just look to social media for verification of this fact. In our jobs in “the real world,” we google for research and walk across the hall to get a colleague’s opinion on our next project, assignment, or idea. Yes, the final presentation (or product) is our creation, but without collaboration this product would likely not be as effective or vetted if we just worked alone.

Carey asks another thought-provoking question- “What if we incorporated collaboration into our lessons and our assessments?” If you are like me, your jaw might have dropped at that suggestion. You might have wondered what that would actually look like in a classroom. You might have wondered if students could truly be assessed without the typical multiple-choice, short answer, or essay test. You might have wondered if this could work in your own classroom.

If the goal of assessments is to show students’ understanding and mastery of a concept, then how can working with others accurately do that? How would a teacher know what a student actually knows? Wouldn’t allowing collaboration on assessments make it easy for students who don’t understand the concepts to hide? And wouldn’t allowing collaboration on assessments make it difficult for students to learn how to solve problems on their own?

Should students be allowed to collaborate on assessments?