6.4 Assessing individual students in team work

The issue of assessing individual performance during group or team work excites a lot of debate at meetings of academic engineers. Setting aside the practicalities for a moment there are two key questions: How can you be fair to individual students without imposing an unacceptable workload on either the students or yourself? How can you ensure that all students meet all the learning outcomes defined for the team exercise?  These two questions should make you consider carefully a) what learning outcomes you set, and b) how much help, whether human or technological, is available to you. I cannot solve those problems for you, but I can give an idea of the range of techniques available:

Among the assessment techniques you could use, whatever the task and the assessed output, are:

1Assigning a group mark and giving it to every member of the group.This requires the least effort but might be the least fair to an individual.
2Assigning a group mark and allowing the group to moderate it by mutual agreement (perhaps by up to 30 percentage points) for each member, as long as the overall group average is maintained.This requires group buy-in and some effort from them (but not much from you). The exercise of negotiating how to apportion a fraction of the marks is a good learning experience for the students.
3Assigning individual marks to each student, based perhaps on your observation of the group work and a separate oral or written submission from every student.This is very hard work for you, and almost impossible if the number of groups is large. It can be made easier if there is a single final group report, with the author(s) of each section clearly identified.
4Assigning a group mark, but moderating it for each student based on input from all other students in the group.This sounds complicated and would require a lot of paperwork, but is manageable using software such as WebPA (2002 onwards), [http://webpaproject.lboro.ac.uk/] which largely automates the processes and permits anonymous marking of students by students (or it can be transparent if you wish). Students can lean a great deal from seeing the comments of their peers on their contribution.

Bear in mind that most students rarely see the work produced by other students. Unlike you, who see many examples of student work, they therefore have little experience of what a good (or a bad) piece of work looks like. An approach such as WebPA helps to provide some insight into the student as others see her.

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