USING PEER EVALUATION TO ASSESS INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE IN TEAM FOR FRESHMEN ENGINEERING STUDENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Since 2003, Texas A & M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) has offered Bachelor of Science degrees in chemical, electrical, mechanical and petroleum engineering at Qatar Foundation's Education City campus. The mission of the Qatar campus is to replicate the undergraduate engineering program offered at the main campus and contribute significantly to the knowledge and research needs of Qatar and the region. The Foundations of Engineering I (ENGR111) is a freshman course aimed at introducing all our new students to the profession of engineering. Upon entering university, most students enrolled in TAMUQ come prepared with adequate skills in Mathematics and the Sciences but have a limited understanding of the demands of the engineering profession. Hence the course introduces the students to the fundamental concepts of problem solving and engineering design, which lie at the heart of all engineering disciplines. As in today's world most engineering projects are completed by teams, it is imperative that the students understand what teamwork is at an early stage. Most of the freshmen students at TAMUQ have had limited exposure to teamwork in their high school careers, hence they need to be provided with the opportunity to develop these skills and be given appropriate feedback tools. In our global age, we need to interact with individuals from different cultures and disciplines, therefore teamwork skills are considered of utmost importance. These include strong leadership, effective communication, proper decision-making and conflict management. These skills might not come naturally to certain individuals and need to be cultivated. In the ENGR111 course, the freshmen engineering are introduced to team work through group activities and projects. However, assessing individual student contributions to a group project is a difficult task. In this paper, we will present the range of assessment instruments used and their effectiveness. We will introduce our experiences in conducting group projects for freshmen, the assessment process and how the team members interpreted each others' performance. We will discuss the results obtained using standard peer evaluation techniques to assess individual performance in group projects. Peer assessments are successful when students know what is expected of them and have a correct understanding of their goals and benefits. We found that our students were not amiable to giving their critical opinions of each others' performance. Due to the culture of the local and regional background of students, they have a different perception on peer evaluations. Influenced by their cultural background, most students felt obliged to give their teammates a less critical evaluation of their group working skills. We will discuss the pedagogical approach used to develop assessment methodologies to remedy the situation and the results obtained with them. These results will be analyzed and the effectiveness of these techniques in evaluating individual student performance discussed. We will show whether these methodologies were able to provide us with a better picture of the "inside story" of the collaborative work performed by our students. 2011 American Society for Engineering Education.