The Stenhouse Blog

How to Monitor Individual Learning in a Group Setting

Posted by admin on Oct 1, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Below is an excerpt from the new book, From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K–5 by Julie Coiro, Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis.


Curiosity to Deep Learning_Blog Image


One challenge teachers face is recognizing individual learning and effort within a group setting. Learners of all ages deserve to know that the quality of their learning, at some level, is being determined on its own merit. We have all had one of those group work experiences where a team member did not give as much effort as the others. But we can assess analysis and reflection skills with individual accountability in mind. Here’s how.

Students want to believe their efforts won’t be discounted based on the lesser efforts of another. At the same time, when students are working as a team, we want them to collaborate and support each other. A balance must be struck between individual accountability and group cohesiveness. Solutions must be embedded within the culture of the classroom, not seen as a quick fix. We have included suggestions that can support the building of a classroom culture that values both the individual and the team.

  • Have students create a teamwork plan, mapping out and recording each group member’s responsibilities. Periodically check in with the group to determine if group members are doing their fair share. Record this information on a checklist or through anecdotal notes.
  • Build in several checkpoints during the unit. Specify to students what they should have completed by the checkpoint, and then conference with individuals or groups to see the evidence of their thinking and work and to hear the verbal explanation of their knowledge building. Use a rubric to indicate each student’s progress.
  • As a class, hold a debriefing after a work session, where students specifically share an idea they have learned. Record students’ comments on a poster or digital grid. Making thinking public triggers students to put their thoughts into words, as well as raises the students’ awareness of the type of thinking expected for an inquiry project. Refer to the grid when assessing student progress.
  • Use technology to capture student thinking. Digital tools that let students record themselves discussing their learning (i.e., Flipgrid, Seesaw, Explain Everything) can be a part of a digital portfolio or collection of ideas and work that not only includes the final product but also captures evidence of the process of learning. When viewing these, use a checklist or record anecdotal notes to assess progress.
  • When students collaborate on a written project, have students record their work in a different color or font. When it’s time to evaluate the project, grade this part of the students’ work separately using a rubric or scoring guide.

To learn many more practical ways to create a dynamic classroom for both you and your students, order From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K–5.

Topics: Classroom practice