May 17, 2007
Group Projects
Posted by Lisa Fairfax

I have finally finished grading, just in time for our graduation tomorrow.  In addition to my 110 BA exams (where I again wonder why I have not switched to multiple choice), I also graded the final group projects for my corporate transactions seminar.  The course focuses on the legal and practical issues involved with corporate transactions as well as the developing drafting skills necessary to generate the documents associated with such transactions.  When I introduced the course, I was committed to having a final that involved working in a group because I believe that being a transactional lawyer means working with, and knowing how to incorporate the comments of, other lawyers. So the final project consists of groups of "law firms" marking up a purchase agreement and related closing documents.  However, I was concerned (as are the students) with the potential for free-riding.  As a result I implemented a "peer evaluation" system pursuant to which every student gives me a confidential memo evaluating their fellow law firm members.  I believe the system has been pretty effective.  For the most part it serves as a deterrent for any student inclined to do less than his or her fair share of work.  But it also has served as a form of self-reporting.  Hence on those rare occasions when I have had students who have failed to live up completely to their responsibilities, the students in question have acknowledged their shortcomings in their peer evaluation (probably in an effort to preempt the evaluations of their other group members).  While that is not the optimal solution (because it means that the other students in their group probably had to do more than their fair share on the project), the peer evaluations do give me greater comfort that most students are doing their proper share of work, and that I am able to properly evaluate each student's effort.

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