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Best Practice: Group Assessment

Individual grades or one group grade shared by all members?

ants_apple.pngA group is a team. Whether you assign the membership for each group or students select their teammates, hopefully, most students will feel committed to accomplishing a common goal. Individual accountability is essential for a group to work effectively and produce worthwhile results. When each member of a group receives the same grade, personal accountability becomes an issue.

You may find it challenging to determine individual grades for a group project. Some instructors assign all members the same grade on their group assignment. This eliminates competition within the group and keeps the focus on collaborating. To lessen students' concern over sharing a grade, be sure the group grade is only a small percentage of their total grades.

Alternatively, you can use a variety of assignments to grade each student's contribution. You can ask for peer evaluations, and review each member's test scores, surveys, and reflective writing assignments.

Peer Assessment Advantages

You can use peer assessment to obtain feedback from group members, and students themselves can receive a wider range of feedback when you share those critiques. Peer assessment is a means of allowing students to participate in the evaluation process by commenting on and judging each group member's work. You can use the feedback to add a participation grade or bonus points to reward group members who performed to the outlined requirements.

If group members are aware of rating their peers in advance, students may feel a greater sense of involvement and responsibility. The team may produce a higher quality end product and learn more. You can use peer assessment as part of the collaborative process, and not just a survey submitted at the end when no opportunity for improvement is possible. You can ask for quick checks of how the collaborative process is working.

Ultimately, when you assign a grade for a group's achievement and the contributions of the individual members, you need to consider:

  • How has the group evaluated its success and each other?
  • Does the group deliverable meet the assignment's requirements?

Rubrics and Progress Reports

Provide rubrics, standards, and guidelines before students assess each other's work. Take the time to meet virtually with each team to discuss team roles, how you expect the team to work together, how often meetings need to take place, and how the peer assessment portion affects their final grades.

You can use a simple weekly progress report to help group members stay on track. Include three or four of the following questions:

  • Were the week's goals achieved?
  • Was enough time spent on the group work?
  • Did all members contribute equally?
  • Did the members work well together?
  • What else could you have contributed to help your team this week?
  • What else could others have contributed to help your team this week?
  • Who contributed the most or least this week?
  • What is one aspect of the team dynamic that you would change?

Another way to assess how students feel about their groups is to ask: What are three positives and one negative about your group experience this week?

To learn more, see Grade Group Assignments and Rubrics.