What do we mean when we say ‘group-work’?
Assessed group-work is any activity where a substantial part of the preparation for assessment is done in a group, and/or the assessed work itself is produced collaboratively.
An assessed group-work task should have a level of complexity or authenticity that requires multiple perspectives and collaboration.
What are assessment conditions?
It is useful to bear in mind that what is sometimes referred to as an assessment method is, in fact, only the condition in which the assessment takes place and thus only one of several choices to be made in assessment design.
Group-work could be seen either as a condition for assessment, or as a method of assessment. Choosing to assess group-work still leaves many aspects to be determined. Group-work project can be carried out during or outside of contact hours, can involve different activities, and can be assessed through varied outputs (which are produced solo or collectively).
As such, you may find it helpful to also view other conditions and methods of assessment.
Group-work develops authentically valuable skills, particularly for work environments.
Assessing group work skills can encourage positive student behaviours such as reflection and accountability. For example, any of these could contribute to the final grade:
- a reflective individual piece on the student’s role, contribution or experience.
- a group account of roles and contributions, or notes/minutes from group meetings.
- observation of groups by the teacher during class.
The most significant challenge of group-work is offering a fair recognition of individual contributions, including developing a robust and accountable process for when group members are not contributing fairly, and communicating this process to students.
How students might experience…
Having less control over the final outcome of the work may cause students additional anxiety. However, students also appreciate the opportunity to work on group projects when the collaboration feels fair.
Before starting the project ensure that you clearly communicate the rationale for using group work to students along with the intended learning outcomes and exactly how they will be assessed.
Reliability, fairness and inclusivity
Student self-selection often leads to some homogeneous groups which outperform heterogeneous groups if the group task takes less than four months. Teachers can allocate to diversify groups in terms of gender, background, personality and ability. Random allocation can break up friendship groups and may be perceived by students as more fair. Groups of between four and six student members are optimal.
The relative informality of group-work, and resulting group dynamics and interaction style, may reduce participation by some students. It is advisable to give students guidance on collaborating and organising themselves. You could require groups to agree ground-rules, write a group contact, or assign roles. Documents such as draft plans, meeting notes or individual journals can be included as part of the assessment.
You will need to devise a resit format which allows students to demonstrate their attainment of the learning outcomes. [Add password-protected link to Erik’s document on resit formats]
How to maintain and ensure rigour
The assessment tasks, marking criteria and mark allocation should all be designed to support the learning outcomes you intend to assess. The learning outcomes may focus on:
- the ‘product’ of the activity e.g. disciplinary knowledge and understanding; and/or
- the ‘process’ of the activity e.g. the skills and dispositions developed through group-work .
There is a great range of possible tasks and mark allocations e.g. formative or summative; individual or collective; including peer evaluation; with different percentages of the final mark for different elements of the activity. More information on mark allocation is given under ‘additional information’.
How to limit possible misconduct
Conventional misconduct (such as plagiarism) is ideally reduced by self-policing within a group.
Accessible assessment in group-work
All groups should be supported by the teacher to work inclusively. As noted above, this could include encouraging explicit communication about process by requiring clear planning documents and minute- or note-taking. Students should communicate their needs to their group members, but inclusion plans are confidential and responsibility for meeting inclusion plans remains with the teacher.
Implementing this condition at LSE
If you're considering using assessed group-work, and want more specific information, pedagogic and practical, about implementing the method at LSE, please contact your Eden Centre departmental advisers.