“If students understand why group work is being used, understand the assessment system, are collaborative and ethical in their behaviour and possess sophisticated group work skills, then only minimal assessment mechanisms may be necessary as safeguards. In the end it is the creation of a healthy learning milieu that can contribute most to solving group work assessment problems.” Professor Graham Gibbs (9th October, 2015, Jisc)
How does it align with the module learning outcomes? Does it assess or practice skills and knowledge that are key to the discipline?
This is a key consideration when assigning group work. Some learning outcomes lend themselves more obviously to group assessment. However, any module with learning outcomes which refer to communication, organisation, critical thinking and analysis can benefit from some kind of formative group work activity.
Will it be formative or summative? If summative, how will I give opportunities for practice? When will it occur in the term/module? What will the weighting be?
As project group work requires a significant amount of student effort and complex skills, it would make sense to make this summative. Smaller group work or in class quizzes can be a great means of providing formative opportunities for practice and skills development.
Practicing group work in class situations, through group problem sheets, or think-pair-share activities can be a good starting point to familiarise students with group work.
How will I mark it? Will I grade it? What criteria will I use? How will I give feedback?
This table from the University of Waterloo, Canada provides a list of consideration and suggestions for how to grade group work. Many of these are also ways to promote equitable division of labour and participation.
- Base decisions on the fairest and most motivating option for the students.
- You could consider negotiating the allocation of grades with the class beforehand, although this could get messy with large classes.
|Type of mark
|This mark is based on…
|Assessing the product(s) of group work
|Shared group mark
|…the group product. The group submits or presents one product (project report, poster presentation, oral presentation etc.) and all group members receive the same mark, regardless of their individual contribution. For example, the project is given a score of 60% and all members receive 60%.
|Group average mark
|…an average of marks for individual products by each member of the group. Students are marked on their individual submissions (e.g. their section of a group report or presentation) and the group receives an average of all individual marks. For example the group members achieve 45, 65, 70 and 55. This gives each group member a score of 58.75.
|…an individual product /report /examination. Students receive an individual mark for a particular task that contributes to the final group project. Alternatively, students complete an individual report based on the group project.
|Combination of group average and individual mark
|…the group product but adjusted according to individual contribution to it, or based partly on the group product and partly on separate individual work (such as reflections on their own or the group work completed). Each student in the group is awarded a group mark and a mark for individual contribution with an algorithm to work out adjustments. For example the group mark can be 70% of the mark while the individual is worth 30% with a mechanism for adjusting individual contributions.
|Assessing the process of group work
|Individual mark (adjusted from group average)
|…an assessment of how the group worked but adjusted for individual contributions (see above). This could be decided by the teacher or peers (see peer marking).
|Group average mark
|…an assessment of how the group worked. This could be decided by the teacher or peers (see peer marking)
|Individual mark (for reflection on process)
|…a paper analysing group processes. Students submit and are marked by the teacher on an individual paper that analyses the group process (including their own contribution and that of their peers).
For a much more comprehensive list of ways to break down grading see https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/developing-assignments/group-work/methods-assessing-group-work
Criteria for process might include things like:
- adoption of group roles and responsibilities
- development of negotiation and leadership skills
- demonstration of creative problem solving
- responsiveness to feedback from group members
- evidence of conflict management and resolution
- evidence of reflective listening
- appropriate organisation and time management
- evidence of contributing equally.
- Consider the amount of time students are given to complete the work. Team work is more time-consuming for students than individual work due to meeting and negotiations. Students often need time to become comfortable in their groups. You can use the mapping tools in this resource to analyse where a group assessment should fit in your module or programme.
- Consider the programme as well as the module. If students are conducting group work in many modules, they may become fatigued.
- Small groups generally work better than large ones, where the potential to ‘loaf’ are heightened (Davies, 2009) .
- Start group work early in the course. It should not be used for the first time for a highly weighted summative assessment if students have not had previous practice.
- Decide whether you want to assign groups or have students choose their own. Both have potential pitfalls. Often assigning groups is preferable in order to foster diversity, although be prepared for how to respond to students who want to change groups.
- Use technology to help facilitate group communication. KEATS forums, Box or Google Docs folders can contain work. Social networking tools such as Whatsapp and Signal can provide tools for organising meetings and allocations of work.
- Encourage students to reflect as part of their group work, although this does not have to be part of the grade.
Here is a comprehensive guide to making group work work!: http://escalate.ac.uk/5413
Assessing Learning in Australian Universities website provides some ideas, strategies and resources for quality in group assessment.
How will I address potential challenges?
Do I need to make any modifications for accessibility/inclusivity? Can I build these into the design?
Consider students who cannot access campus or have childcare/carer responsibilities outside class. Can group work take place largely online using forums or wikis and through social media? Can it built into seminars?
Some students will find group work particularly challenging (Autism & Uni, undated; The Student Room, 2014). There are also considerations of mixed-language groups, where some sytudenst might not feel confident in participation. Invite students to discuss any issues with you or their personal tutor, and signpost them to support negotiating their role in their group. But this is not about students with specific difficulties learning to fit in with the majority – it is also a matter of staff promoting awareness of diversity and an inclusive ethos among every group member. Group work should not be the only method of summative assessment on the course in order not to disadvantage those who work better individually. However, if group work is a core learning outcome of the module, then all students should be given the same opportunities as other students to participate.
- Smaller group sizes help to reduce anxiety for all students.
- Formative practice helps scaffold for those who are unused to group or team learning for personal or cultural reasons.
- If students negotiate roles and responsibilities, more anxious students can be given certain tasks which play to their strengths. Although opportunities should be provided for development of new skills, so support is crucial.
- Reasonable adjustments may be needed to include support for hearing or visually impaired students who may struggle with group work. Extra time and extensions may be required for groups with students with KIPs.
Do I need to make any modifications for large cohort sizes? Will it be time consuming to set up or mark? Is there anything I can do to modify it to address this?
The workload in marking is usually reduced by the fact of having fewer assignments, although the nature of typical group assignments means they will be larger and more complex to mark. If the work will only have a group grade, you can provide feedback to the group only. If the work will include both group and individual, this can increase the amount of marking.
How can I introduce it to the students? How can I promote equitable division of labour and avoid some of the common difficulties in teams?
Establish ground rules before beginning the group work. This can be done informally or more formally by having students draw up a form of social contract. King’s Business School use this example on their level 7 Marketing module.
The Learn Higher team at the University of Kent have produced a series of videos which can be used to help students negotiate their own group work.
Having regular points for students to reflect on and monitor their individual contribution and group process can help, this can be done by meeting their lecturer or using an online form. It is important that the lecturer reviews this so students know their concerns are being heard. Here is an example from King’s Business School.
Students might feel more comfortable if part of the grade comes from individual contribution. This can, however, detract from the effectiveness of the group work so it is better not to weight this too highly.
As with all assessment methods, try to provide an exemplar of what a successful assignment looks like.
Other examples of promoting equitable participation and division of labour are provided in the following resource: Maiden & Perry (2011)