In proceedings ASEE Annual Conf., St. Louis, June 2000.
Peer evaluations in teams of predominantly minority students
Richard A. Layton and Matthew W. Ohland

This paper presents an analysis of student peer evaluations in project teams where the majority of the students are African-American. Peer evaluations were used to assign individual grades from group grades for design projects in a junior-level mechanical engineering course taught by Layton for three semesters in 1997-99. This study is similar to and complements a 1999 study by Kaufman, Felder, and Fuller. The results of the two 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/ethnicity. We concur with Kaufman et al. that, while racial prejudice cannot be ruled out, a more likely explanation of this result is that students tend to give low ratings to those who are weaker academically. Students seem to base ratings on perceived abilities instead of real contributions. To overcome this tendency, we suggest that instructors teach the behavioral characteristics of good teamwork and focus student peer evaluations on those characteristics.

©2000 American Society for Engineering Education.

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Richard A. Layton
Last modified: 14 Jul 02