Group work: Assessment

Fair and equitable assessment within
group work

As with other types of assessment, when assessing students engaged in group work, the following principle from section 5 of MMU’s Curriculum and Assessment Framework for Taught Programmes needs to be followed:

“Assessment processes are equitable with all students being assessed fairly on their own individual merit and ability.”

Common assessment tasks within group work

Group work assessments can test different kinds of outcomes from individual assignments and so different types of tasks are normally used. Assessment tasks which are commonly used for group work include:

  • Presentation
  • Poster
  • Debate
  • Report
  • Exhibition
  • Performance
  • Event organisation

Assessing the skills (group work processes) as well as the outcome

If it is a programme aim that students should work in groups, then you should think about assessing this skill explicitly. In other words, you may wish to assess the process of arriving at the final outcome as well as the outcome itself.

The University of Melbourne suggests that some or all of the following might be assessed:

  • regular meeting attendance
  • equity of contribution
  • evidence of cooperative behaviour
  • appropriate time and task management
  • application of creative problem solving
  • use of a range of working methods
  • appropriate level of engagement with task
  • development of professional competencies
  • evidence of capacity to listen
  • responsiveness to feedback/criticism.

To decide how you might assess any such elements within the assignment, you will need to look at the unit and programme learning outcomes, and at any standard assessment criteria for the programme.

Allocating marks for group work

This is an area where students often feel badly treated with many variations on the theme of “I did all the work and [so and so] did nothing and got the same grade as me” appearing in evaluations of group work. Also, group assessment can cause anxiety for students, especially if it counts significantly to the final degree classification (Forsyth and Marr, 2011, p.96).

Remember the principle at the beginning of this section and consider options and relevant factors as follows:

Different options for allocating marks for group work

Figure 1 below shows the options for allocating marks for group work.

Tend to assess the group as a whole

Tend to have individual assessment of the group members
Sharing the same mark equally between all members of the group Sharing a proportion of the total available mark equally and allocating the remainder according to the group’s perception of individual contributions to the task Sharing a proportion of the total available mark equally and allocating the remainder for an individual submission which might reflect on the process of completing the group task Asking for individual submissions related to the task and marking these rather than marking a group submission

(Forsyth and Marr, 2011, p.96)

Factors to consider when planning assessment of group work

The selection of the best approach is based on a variety of considerations.

For example, if this is the main task for a 30 credit final year unit, the groups are of mixed ability and the students are unfamiliar with group-work processes, then sharing a mark equally between everyone in the group will trouble the students and could distract them from a focus on the tasks and activities required. Figure 2 below indicates factors which might be used to determine the assessment strategy

Tend to assess the group as a wholeTend to have individual assessment of the group members
The product of the group task is the main aspect being assessed The process of group working is being assessed
The assignment has low relative value for my module The assignment is the only form of assessment for the module
The students are working at level 4The students are working at level 6 or 7
The students have a lot of experience of group working and being assessed in a group The students have little experience of group working and being assessed in a group
The groups are academically mixedThe groups are relatively homogeneous academically

(Forsyth and Marr, 2011, p.97)

The useful University of Melbourne guide to group work covers relevant elements of assessing group work including reasons for using this method, common issues and concerns, designing activities which work, weighing up the options and getting started.

Some form of self or peer assessment which contributes to the final mark may help to counter perceived unfairness in a group mark. An example of the implementation of group assessment sheets can be found in Heathfield, M. 1999. These sheets require students to self-assess their contributions to the groups using five indicators:

  • Regular attendance at group meetings
  • Contribution of ideas for the task
  • Researching, analysing and preparing material for the task
  • Contribution to cooperative group processes
  • Supporting and encouraging group members
  • Practical contribution to the end product


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