When you consider what types of assessments to include in your courses, you may include group projects in your palette of options.

However, if you haven’t yet used these group projects as a means of assessing student learning, you may want to ask yourself the following three questions as you design the activity. These points, gleaned from McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers,Fourteenth Edition(McKeachie and Svinicki 2014), will guide your efforts and help you determine an optimal way of assessing what students learned as they completed their work.


1. What, exactly, do you want to assess? Are you assessing the content quality of the work that your students submit as a team? Do you also want to assess their teamwork skills (cooperation, communication, definition of roles, project management, etc.)? These questions may seem elementary, but the answers are essential if you want to ensure that you’re assessing the work in a way that aligns with your ultimate objectives for the assignment.


2. How will you measure individual students’ learning? McKeachie and Svinicki note that, though most instructors do require a group report at the end of the project, many instructors have additional ways to check students’ mastery of the key concepts they intend for students to learn. For example, some will require each student to turn in a paper with his or her own observations, analysis, and discoveries that came about as a result of working on the group project. Others tie a question on their examinations back to the group project, requiring students to further analyze and reflect on what they learned and experienced.


3. How will you evaluate individual students’ contributions? Given that you won’t be able to observe the students’ interactions first hand, you’ll need some method of evaluating the level of work and effort each student contributed to the group project. As part of the project, you could ask each student to report on his or her contributions to the group project, as well as those of their fellow team members. Some instructors do this through written evaluations; others use a form or survey with “ratings” based on the criteria for the project. Though no one student’s answer will give you a complete picture of the group activity, you can get a general sense of their efforts, progress, and collaboration by considering their feedback as a whole.


In addition to the above recommendations, McKeachie and Svinicki suggest that, at the start of a group project, you spend some time discussing your criteria and expectations for the project, as well as some general processes that lead to effective group work. (Many of these success strategies for teamwork in the online setting in this linked article will also apply to groups that can meet face to face.) This can take the form of a portion of your lecture, a conversation in class, or a series of discussion board posts. (81-82)


Reference: McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Svinicki, Marilla. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 14th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


How do you assess group work? How do you have students evaluate what they learned and experienced through the project? Share your thoughts in the comments!