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If developing teamwork skills is one of your learning objectives for the course, then your assessment should assess both the process (how students work in the group) as well as the group’s end product (the work they produce as a group, such as a paper or presentation). Without assessing the group process, it is difficult to reliably and fairly break down group effort into individual marks.
Group assessment is also a common complaint by students, including concerns about ‘loafers’ who do not pull their weight and ‘lone wolves’ who complete the work individually rather than collaborate with the group.
The following tips will help you devise assessment that is fair and validly reflects the performance of the group and its individual members.
Tips for group assessment
- Individual and group assessment. By including an individual mark component to the assessment, students know from the start that the quality and quantity of their contribution to the group will affect their mark. While there is no perfect breakdown, the grading scheme should reflect your learning objectives and seek to motivate the kind of work you want to see. If the individual % is too low, it can fail to motivate students to actively participate in the group and demotivate high achievers. If it is too high, it can encourage more individualistic behaviour rather than teamwork. Based on experiences from Camosun faculty in the School of Business, for instance, an allocation of 65% for the quality of the group’s end product and 35% for individual contribution has worked well. See Appendix D for an example assessment allocation. You may want to finalize the percentage breakdown with feedback from your class, so that they have input into their assessment and are aware of the issues of balancing the individual and group evaluation.
- Peer and self-assessment. As instructors, we do not always have a direct window into the dynamics of student groups and as a result, effective assessment of individual performance typically requires peer and self-assessment. Research has shown that accountability to their teammates is an effective and powerful intrinsic motivator, with a formal peer evaluation process being key. There is the risk of bias with peer and self-assessment which can be mitigated by anonymous reflections as well as triangulating the assessments between the evaluations by the 4-5 teammates as well as your observations. See Appendix E for a sample peer and self-assessment rubric that is linked to the learning outcomes.
- Set interim deadlines with opportunities to provide feedback. Having checkpoints during the group project in which milestones are to be reached helps the groups stay on track as well as provides you with insights into their performance for the final project as well as with their team skills. To foster discussion and reflection on their group dynamics, and encourage their learning, a shared assessment, for completion marks, is recommended such as having each group member document and share what they appreciate about each other member and one thing each of the members could improve upon. With a guided debrief by you with the groups, it helps to encourage open communication and provide an opportunity for improvement and learning, prior to the group and individual assessments for grades at the end of the project.
- Act as a mediator, consultant, coach and arbitrator. Your ongoing involvement with the teams will help them in reaching the learning objectives for the group project. Your modeling of effective, open communication, with respect and sensitivity that you want the students to display towards their classmates, is important. It may also mean that at times, you will need to help resolve team issues including removing a team member if this is the best solution for salvaging a team. Similar to a work scenario, in which removal would be the responsibility of the supervisor, the decision best lies with the instructor; otherwise, a potentially damaging situation can occur which can adversely affect the students in other courses as well. Students who are removed from a team could meet the learning outcomes by writing a research paper on how to be an effective team member.