Evaluating Group Projects

Instructors often have difficulty evaluating group projects and students often feel that such projects are not graded fairly. It is important to take seriously concerns over equity and to implement strategies to help ensure students feel that they are fairly treated.  The following suggestions might help you to implement and assess group projects more effectively.

 

Preparation:

  • When assigning group projects:
    • Explain to the class why you selected a group project, note clearly the benefits of group work within your course and acknowledge its limitations.
    • Consider whether or not you can permit a student who strongly objects to group work to complete the assignment individually.
    • Make your expectations for the project clear (provide a handout or post the objectives of the task in relation to the goals and objectives of the course; date of completion; and information regarding participation expectations for group members). Use a rubric to assign a point value to each of the criteria on which you will base evaluation of the project and provide students with the rubrics.
    • Provide opportunities in class for students to develop the skills needed for group projects (listening, building consensus, peer assessment). Sometimes there will be large differences among students in their preparedness for group work, their previous experience with it, and their attitudes toward participation.  Work might be required to build group work skills; instructors should not assume that all students are ‘on the same page’ to begin the group work.
    • Encourage students to assign tasks for each group member in the first or second meeting and to establish deadlines for completion of the tasks.
    • Ask students to provide minutes of their group meetings (read and signed by all members of the group) to be passed in when the project is due.
  • Evaluation:
    • Having minutes signed by all members of the group will enable the instructor to identify instances of “Group Grading” where students agree to submit the same grade for each member of the group (usually a high grade), or grades based on personal conflicts or friendships (usually inordinately low or high grades). Peer evaluation will increase the likelihood of having a fair point spread between students who contribute a great deal to the project and those who don’t.

Using a rubric will enable you to assign the total grade for the project or to leave a portion of the grade for peer assessment. Peer assessment can be done anonymously based on a simple peer assessment form that you develop in collaboration with students prior to the assignment. The total peer assessment grade is a combined average of all grades for each student provided by his/her group members.

 

 

Rationale:

Research suggests that students learn and retain material better and develop specific transferable skills when involved in group projects (Gross Davis, B. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.).

Knowing that peers are relying on you is a powerful motivator for group work (Kohn, A. (1986). No contest: The case against competition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin).

Stating clear criteria in advance of the project/assignment and having a clear evaluation procedure will help to ensure that grading is fair and transparent.

 

Upon further review: Three Online Resources:

From University of Tennessee - Chattanooga:

http://www.utc.edu/Administration/WalkerTeachingResourceCenter/FacultyDevelopment/EvalGroups/index.php#references

From UC Berkley:

http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/collaborative.html

Journal Article:

Lisa E. Gueldenzoph and Gary L. Collaborative Peer Evaluation: Best Practices for Group Member Assessments.  Business Communication Quarterly 2002; 65; 9. The online version of this article can be found at:

http://bcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/65/1/9