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Assessing Group Work

All of the basic principles of assessment that apply to individual work apply to group work as well. Assessing group work has added wrinkles, however. First, depending on the objectives of the assignment, both process and product-related skills must be assessed. Second, group performance must be translated into individual grades – which raises issues of fairness and equity. Complicating both these issues is the fact that neither group processes nor individual contribution are necessarily apparent in the final product. Thus, the instructor needs to find ways of obtaining that information. The following general principles should be adapted to the context of specific courses.

Assess process, not just product.

If both product and process are important to you, both should be reflected in students’ grades – although the weight you accord each will depend on your learning objectives for the course and for the assignment. Ideally, your grading criteria should be communicated to students via a rubric. This is especially important if you are emphasizing skills that students are not used to being evaluated on (such as the ability to cooperate, meet deadlines, etc.)

Ask students to assess their own contribution to the team.

Have students evaluate their own teamwork skills and their contribution to the group’s process using a self-assessment that focuses on the process skills you are emphasizing, e.g., respectfully listening to and considering opposing views or a minority opinion; effectively managing conflict around differences in ideas or approaches; keeping the group on track both during and between meetings; promptness in meeting deadlines; and appropriate distribution of research, analysis, writing.

Hold individuals accountable.

To motivate individual students and discourage the free-rider phenomenon, it is important to assess individual contributions and understanding, as well as group products and processes. In addition to evaluating the work of the group as a whole, ask individual students to demonstrate their learning. This can be done via independent write-ups, weekly journal entries, content quizzes, etc.

Ask students to evaluate their group’s dynamics and the contributions of their teammates.

Gauge what various group members have contributed to the group (e.g., effort, participation, cooperativeness, accessibility, communication skills) by asking team members to complete a group processes evaluation form. While this is not a fool-proof strategy (students may feel social pressure to cover for one another), combined with other factors promoting individual accountability, it can provide you with important information about the dynamics within groups and the contributions of individual members.

If you are gathering feedback from external clients (for example, in the context of public reviews of students’ performances or creations), this feedback can also be incorporated into your assessment of group work. Feedback from external clients can address product (“Does it work?” “Is it a good solution/design?”) or process (based on the client’s interaction with the group and its ability to communicate effectively, respond appropriately, or meet deadlines) and can be incorporated either formally or informally into the group grade.

> Group and Self-Assessment Tool

(download .pdf | download .doc)

> Grading Methods for Group Work

Instructor and student options for assessing group work.

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