1. Group Assessments
Methods to promote positive student perceptions
What, Why, How?
Teaching Essentials: https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/teaching/
Course-focused Practice: https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/cfp
2. Group work: Key ideas
Group assessments involve students working together
formatively, summatively, or both.
Promotes peer co-operation and collaboration.
Working together brings many benefits to students if
activities are designed well.
Learning alongside peers
students can compare their own knowledge and
abilities with peers
can encourage individuals to rise to the challenge.
Group work is flexible and must be designed for
purpose to be successful.
Team-based group work
“…involves a fundamental
change in the overall structure
of the course... [students] may
develop a surer sense of social
identity, and a feeling of
belonging and commitment."
- Jaques & Salmon, 2007
3. Group work: Key ideas
Students often report group work feels unfair
Spend time introducing group work and its
intended outcomes and benefits
Explore the assessment criteria in detail with
students before they embark on a group activity
to ensure everyone is clear about what is
Many factors can be considered to ensure group-
based learning works in your context…
4. Group work: Key ideas
Thinking about the design of effective groups
Many factors affect group dynamics
Keeping groups or creating new groups?
Working with colleagues to help with design
5. Group work: Key ideas
Tutor Student (Self) Peer
Product Skills Process
Tutor gives Feedback Student (Self) Reflection Peers give Feedback
Description of the Assessment Activity
a combination of one or more from each of the following
6. Group work: Key ideas
Why you have established the group this way?
What is assessed and how?
How you will explain the task and prepare students for it?
How will you incorporate feedback?
Who will mark the task and who will give feedback on it?
How you will individualise the marks and personalise feedback?
How you will help students organise themselves?
7. Review these questions – over to you
What are the benefits to students of group work?
How do you motivate your students to engage in the group task?
If they believe group work is unfair, how would you convince them that it is fair in
In what situation would you decide to use self or peer assessment?
8. We’ve begun the conversation…
What do you take from the discussion and what more would you like to find out or
How can your course team or subject group make use of these ideas
What further development would be useful for you?
Your Action Plan
Hinweis der Redaktion
Group work brings many benefits to learning, however, these are often obscured in the short-term by matters relating to the management of group-based activities.
There is some concern amongst students that group work is overused, especially at Level 6 when, strategically, students are focusing on the final furlong and where they are not prepared, as they see it, to have their final award undermined by weaker peers.
Such matters need careful consideration. It is important to use group work and enjoy its benefits. However, this requires good design practices.
This presentation introduces some of these issues and the opportunities for designing and incorporating effective group work.
Group assessments involve students working together formatively, summatively, or both.
Groupwork demands peer co-operation and collaboration. The benefits of working in collaboration brings benefits to a students’ employability – knowing how well you respond to other co-workers is useful in terms of employability, but it is also important in terms of coming to know yourself and your capabilities compared to others.
Working together brings many benefits to students if activities are designed well.
Learning alongside peers
Can create a highly supportive environment
Students can compare their own knowledge and abilities with those of their peers, and learn from each other
And peers can encourage each other to rise to the challenge.
Group work, however, needs to be understood as a highly flexible learning context. It is critical that it is designed for purpose for it to be successful.
A group, fundamentally, is a collection of people. A team, however, has a particular dynamic that emerges as it forms and explores ideas and problems in the context.
Group work addresses a wide range of learning outcomes and the assessment criteria need to reflect this.
Students will often focus on the product or the goal of group work. Students need to be clear about what is being assessed and why group work is the best approach to achieving those outcomes.
Some students will always prefer to work alone, and some will always prefer to learn with others. Either way, learning at University should positively take us out of our comfort zones occasionally. It should stretch us and push us to learn about what we are capable of achieving in situations that often seem difficult.
For example, when making decisions with others about interpreting and applying theoretical knowledge and skills.
Because groups can go wrong or can foster resentment, it is critical to design assessment criteria clearly and spend time with students exploring the criteria before setting the group on its way. These become the group’s Terms of Reference – there should be no reason for confusion about what each student should do. Having this clarity allows the group members to focus on what the group and its members need to do. This is empowering for them.
If members of the group do not pull their weight it should be easy to spot and address the problem. If the group can’t manage this themselves, any disparity in effort or lack of commitment from a student should be evident and clear to the tutor.
As tutors we need to have thought through
How should we support and scaffold the group task?
How we should manage group dysfunction and personality conflicts?
When should we intervene?
However, it is always best that groups take responsibility, as far as is possible, for managing expectations within the group. Managing such tensions are one of the key outcomes of group experience.
There are techniques students can use to manage this, and these can be explored through discussion amongst the course team. For the moment, one method is to ask the students to maintain a joint record of the work they are doing, and who exactly is doing what, as they go along. This can be done in a Google Doc. As a shared record, it should become immediately obvious to all concerned whether there is a problem.
But groups and group work needs to be thoughts through. The design of group work is considered in the rest of this presentation.
If you have decided to use group work you will have thought about most of the following design factors. The trick is to think about them in advance! And base you group design on this thinking.
In terms of course-focused practice,
to what extent should you keep groups that have been established in other modules and at other levels?
Group design is best thought through with other members of the course team – to share experience of adjusting the factors and to learn about what works and what doesn’t work on your course.
There are many design factors. For example,
How big should each group be ideally?
Should they be self-selecting?
Should they be formed as collaborative teams with roles?
Are roles of equal value and needing equal effort throughout the group work activity?
This matrix is designed to help you to think about the design of group work in your context.
You begin by thinking about the aim of the activity and why this is best achieved by using student groups.
Then, reflect on who will assess it and at what points – group projects, for example, provide several stages for formative assessment as well as having a final summative dimension.
Any activity, including summative tasks, should relate directly to the Intended Learning Outcomes for the module and the course. Are they primarily about Product (what they students produce), about skills, or about demonstrating their understanding of a process? Or a combination of these?
Ensure the group work design optimises opportunities for achieving the Intended Learning Outcomes and that these are clear expressed in the assessment criteria. Using an assessment rubric can break this down further, creating a useful aid for clarifying what is expected in the group work. Student groups should ideally begin by making sure they agree amongst themselves about what is expected.
This is important, of course, because as we have discussed, students often feel group work is unfair when the Intended Learning Outcomes are not clear to them.
The third part of the matrix asks you to focus on feedback design – what opportunities are you designing into the group work for feedback and feed forward? Who is mostly involved in this? – the tutor, the students themselves through reflection opportunities, or their peers?
Good group work comes from designing it. It is unlikely to be a good experience without design.
Consider these points…
Recent research at Sheffield Hallam discovered that in many cases the reason for including group work has been lost. Academics have said, “It’s good for employability, isn’t it?” Experience of working in groups can help students reflect on how they best contribute in a team situation, but if the group work activity is not designed as an authentic team-based activity and designed to address related learning outcomes, the benefits of the experience can be lost, and indeed undermined.