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Assessment: Benefits and challenges

Benefits and challenges of group work

  • Benefits: Preparing students for professional norms; wider range of ideas and solutions; growth comes outside of individual comfort zone. Camosun’s CamSTAR lists Top Ten Employability Skills for new graduates and includes: Teamwork, Leadership, Decision-making, Problem-solving, Communicating Verbally and in Writing, and Responsibility, all of which can be developed through group projects (from Goodwin et al., 2019)
  • Challenges:
    For instructor – lots of preparation, organization, and ongoing support from instructor. Have to work with different group dynamics and pay timely attention to problems that come up; model good group behaviours for your students. Lots of PLANNING required + regular check-ins.
    For students – group dynamics, time management, division of labour concerns, + anxieties about “how will I be assessed”

Associated resources

  1. Implementing Academic Accommodation | Group Work (flexibility) Accommodation.

  2. Since group work not only deepens course technical knowledge but also builds team skills, clear learning objectives for team skill development should be developed. Check the learning outcomes of the course you are working with to ensure consistency of the team learning outcomes with the course learning outcomes.

  3. UDL: Begin with “Construct Relevance” (of group work). 
    As with any other type of assessment, be sure you are only grading “construct relevant” learning outcomes for group work:

    “Assessments are designed to measure knowledge, skills, and abilities. Constructs are the knowledge, skills or abilities being measured by an assessment. By their nature, however, most assessments include features that are not relevant to the construct being assessed, such as vocabulary knowledge in math word problems. Often the methods and materials used in assessments require additional skills and understanding. These are considered to be construct irrelevant. Construct-irrelevant features of assessments may pose barriers for some students, preventing an accurate measurement of the construct”.

    For an example of “construct irrelevance”, consider this instruction for a group-based assessment:

    The “Critical Evaluation of News Sources” assignment is a group research project and is worth 20% of your final grade. The purpose of this project is to compare and assess how one “liberal” media source and one “conservative” media source covered the [XYZ] topic in 2021. Each group is responsible for creating 5 questions that could be used to guide a public discussion about media bias, and giving a PowerPoint presentation to the class to explain their discussion questions.

    Is there a reason why students would be required use PowerPoint to present on their project? Are PowerPoint skills also being taught in the course, or is proficient use of PowerPoint formally identified as one of the course learning objectives? While the masterful use of PowerPoint may be a valuable skill for students to acquire, it is probably not the actual goal of this group-based research project. If PowerPoint is not being taught in the course, it is not fair to assume all students will already have that skill or to base a portion of the group’s grade on demonstrating that skill. In this case, students’ required use of PowerPoint to explain their discussion questions appears to be a construct-irrelevant feature of the assessment.

  1. UDL Guidelines (Engagement): Foster collaboration and community. carefully structured, such peer cooperation can significantly increase the available support for sustained engagement.