Introduction

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Group work provides valuable opportunities for students to develop important skills. Collaboration is a significant component of many careers. For students to develop the skill of collaboration, it is important to both provide opportunities (e.g., a group project) and meaningful feedback and assessment.

 
Strategies for Assessing Group Work

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When introducing group work to students, it should be made clear to students the nature of how that gr oup work will be assessed. Will the product and/or process be assessed? Will the group work be assessed by the instructor and/or group members? Will marks be individually or group assigned? Will roles be assigned to group members by the instructor or will group members be expected to work together or negotiate roles? These are some of the questions that are necessary to address when designing and communicating the nature of how group work will be assessed.

 
Examples of Effective 'Person' related Assessment Strategies

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Individual exam/assignment, subsequent to group process
Marks are allocated to individuals based on their performance in a subsequent individual assignment/exam based solely on subject matter of group activity.

Advantages

  • Group work serves as formative exercise.
  • Recognises efforts of strong individual and collective group performance.
  • Addresses free-rider problem.

Disadvantages

  • Difficult to design individual exam/assignment that compels students to be entirely engaged with group task to perform well in it.
  • Assigning different marks to different members resists spirit of collaboration.

Individual task-based grade
Marks are awarded to individual students for a task they performed for the group project.

Advantages

  • Recognises contributions of individual students.
  • Perceived as fair by students.
  • Addresses free-rider problem.

Disadvantages

  • Does not promote collaboration.
  • Difficult to find tasks of similar size and complexity to share out.

Self-assessment
Students evaluate their own contribution by reference to pre-set criteria, and award themselves a mark which is moderated by lecturer.

Advantages

  • Increases students' attentiveness to appropriateness of their behaviour in the group.

Disadvantages

  • Time required to teach students how to self-assess.
  • Students may not be objective.
 
Examples of Effective 'Process' related Assessment Strategies

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(* These methods also include elements of 'Person' related assessment strategies)

Group average grade, based on individual parts
Each member submits an individual report on their individual group task. Final grade is the average grade for all work submitted.

Advantages

  • May motivate students to focus on both individual and group work, thereby developing in both areas.
  • Suitable for group activities that can be divided into discrete components.

Disadvantages

  • Difficult to find tasks of similar size and complexity to share out.
  • Stronger students may be unfairly disadvantaged by weaker ones.

Group mark adjusted for individual viva performance*
Each student enters their viva with a group based mark, but leaves with that grade plus/minus up to 20%, based on answering questions focused on the group task.

Advantages

  • Group work serves as formative exercise.
  • Recognises efforts of strong individual and collective group performance.
  • Addresses free-rider problem.

Disadvantages

  • Assigning different marks to different members goes against the spirit of collaboration.

Group mark with peer-adjusted individual grade*
Lecturer awards shared group grade, but individual grade is adjusted using peer assessment factor.

Advantages

  • Perceived as fairer than single group mark.
  • May motivate students to contribute more.
  • Students develop skills in constructive criticism and diplomacy.
  • Students better understand their own performance by assessing others attempts.

Disadvantages

  • Possible subjective evaluation by friends.
  • Possible conflict.
  • May foster competition and be counter-productive to group work.

Students decide grade from pool of marks
Lecturer awards pool of marks and lets group decide how to distribute them. Limits can be set
on extent to which marks can vary within the group.

Advantages

  • Regarded as fairer than a single group grade.
  • Increases students’ attentiveness to appropriateness of their behaviour.

Disadvantages

  • Students may require assistance in negotiating marks.

Assessment of ‘team citizenship’ behaviour
Group members assess each other’s team citizenship skills.

Advantages

  • Emphasises group work skills over academic ability.
  • All group members who cooperate effectively receive the group assignment grade.
  • Free-riders and problematic members are penalised.

Disadvantages

  • Possible subjective evaluation by friends.

Peer assessment, with penalties for noncompliance
Permits group members to inflict penalties on peers displaying undesirable behavior.

Advantages

  • Group can rescind penalty if underperforming member restores contribution.
  • Promotes desirable group behaviour.
  • Addresses free-rider problem.

Disadvantages

  • May lead to conflict.

Random peer assessment using pre-set criteria
Students are randomly allocated other students’/groups’ assignments to assess using pre-set criteria. Marks allocated are moderated by lecturer.

Advantages

  • Promotes student involvement.
  • Gives students the opportunity to give and receive feedback.

Disadvantages

  • Students require assistance in negotiating marks.

Anonymous peer evaluation
Students anonymously mark other students’ assignments using pre-set criteria.

Advantages

  • Increases student’s sense of involvement and responsibility.
  • Helps students develop skills in independent judgement.
  • Students better understand their own performance by assessing other’s attempts.
  • Anonymity aids objectivity.
  • Marker is more discerning when anonymity is protected.

Disadvantages

  • Time required to teach students how to evaluate one another.
  • Student concerns about fairness.
  • Students must return relevant documentation for this to work.

Public peer evaluation
Publicising peer assessment of students.

Advantages

  • Reported to influence a student’s future performance more effectively than feedback from lecturers.

Disadvantages

  • May cause conflict.
  • Students may be afraid to give accurate evaluation of teammates.

Single group grade
All members receive the same grade based on one group submission.

Advantages

  • Encourages group work members
  • Group members sink or swim together.
  • Straightforward to apply.

Disadvantages

  • Encourages free-rider behaviour.
  • Does not recognise individual contributions.
  • May impair student motivation.
  • Potential benefits of group work likely to be lost.

May be perceived as unfair by students.

 
Examples of Effective ‘Product’ related Assessment Strategies

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Single group grade
All members receive the same grade based on one group submission.

Advantages

  • Encourages group work members
  • Group members sink or swim together.
  • Straightforward to apply.

Disadvantages

  • Encourages free-rider behaviour.
  • Does not recognise individual contributions.
  • May impair student motivation.
  • Potential benefits of group work likely to be lost.
  • May be perceived as unfair by students.

Sources:

McCrea, R., Neville, I., Rickard, D., Walsh, C., Williams, D. (2016) Facilitating group work: a guide to good practice. Dublin: Dublin Institute of Technology. pp. 4-8.

Methods for assessing group work. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.

O'Neill, G. (2013). Assessment: Assessing group work (including online) . Retrieved from UCD Teaching and Learning: http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/UCDTLE0065.pdf

 
 
Resources and References

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Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., Lovett, M. C., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bennett, L. M., & Gadlin, H. (2012). Collaboration and team science. Journal of Investigative Medicine60(5), 768-775.

Chan C. (2010) Assessment: Assessing Group Work, Assessment Resources@HKU , University of Hong Kong. Available at http://ar.cetl.hku.hk 

Davidson, N., & Major, C. H. (2014). Boundary crossings: Cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and problem-based learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching25(3/4), 7-55.

DIT. (2008). Enhancing student learning through assessment and feedback: Assessment handbook . Retrieved from http://www.dit.ie/lttc/media/ditlttc/documents/assessment_toolkitv_07_04_2008.pdf

DIT. (2015). Guidelines on group assessment: Report of the working group on group work to college board May 2015 . College of Business Dublin Institute of Technology, 157.

Eberlein, T., Kampmeier, J., Minderhout, V., Moog, R. S., Platt, T., Varma‐Nelson, P., & White, H. B. (2008). Pedagogies of engagement in science. Biochemistry and molecular biology education36(4), 262-273.

Eberly Centre. (2002). Grading methods for group work . Retrieved from https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/assesslearning/groupWorkGradingMethods.html

Finelli, C. J., Bergom, I., & Mesa, V. (2011). Student teams in the engineering classroom and beyond: Setting up students for success. CRLT Occasional Papers29.

Gibbs, G. Learning in Teams: a Tutor Guide. Oxford, 1995.

Lejk, M. et al. A Survey of Methods of Deriving Individual Grades from Group Assessments. In Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. Vol. 21, No. 3, 1996.

McCrea, R., Neville, I., Rickard, D., Walsh, C., Williams, D. (2016) Facilitating group work: a guide to good practice. Dublin: Dublin Institute of Technology. pp. 4-8.

Methods for assessing group work. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.

O'Neill, G. (2013). Assessment: Assessing group work (including online) . Retrieved from UCD Teaching and Learning: http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/UCDTLE0065.pdf

Plymouth University. (2013). Guidelines for group work and its assessment. Retrieved from https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/uploads/production/document/path/2/2427/Guidelines_for_Assessing_Group_work_Dec_2012.pdf

Taylor, A. (2011). Top 10 reasons students dislike working in small groups… and why I do it anyway. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 39(3), 219-220.

Magna Campus Video and Supplemental Materials Resource

Seven Strategies to Enhance Learning through Group Work

Alternatively:

  1. Log on to UM Learn
  2. Under My Courses, select All Roles under Role, and All under Term.
  3. Scroll down to Development Courses and select The Centre – Magna Campus Resources
  4. Select Magna Campus > Open Menu > Seminar Libraries > Online Seminars
  5. In the search box, type in “group
  6. Tap on “Seven Strategies to Enhance Learning through Group Work