Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Assessing Group Work

All of the basic principles of assessment that apply to individual students’ work apply to group work as well. Assessing group work has additional aspects to consider, 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 contributions are necessarily apparent in the final product. Thus, instructors need to find ways of obtaining this information.

The general principles described in the next few sections can 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 in 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 or meet deadlines.

Ask students to assess their own contribution to the team.

Have students evaluate their own teamwork skills and their contributions to the group’s process using a self-assessment of the process skills you are emphasizing. These process skills may include, among others, 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, and 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 accomplished through independent write-ups, weekly journal entries, content quizzes, or other types of individual assignments.

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 an evaluation form for group processes. This is not a foolproof strategy (students may feel social pressure to cover for one another). However, when 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 (e.g., “Does it work?”, “Is it an effective design?”) or process (e.g., the group’s ability to communicate effectively, respond appropriately, or meet deadlines) and can be incorporated formally or informally into the group grade.

Grading Methods for Group Work

Instructor and student options for assessing group work.

Example of Group and Self-Assessment Tool

(download .pdf | download .doc)

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