Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Grading Groupwork

Different ways animals work in groups
We all know the pedagogy.  Group work is great. Having students work in teams gets them to practice

Group work offers students the chance to teach one another (and we all know that teaching is one of the best ways to really learn, understand and remember something).

However, groupwork has its downsides too. Often one student will be dependent on others not really giving their full effort. Other times, group-work is not properly divided. I talked about a group once that got in trouble for plagiarism.  They had divided the group work as follows: Student1- Make the drinks they were going to pass out during class, Student2-Write the brochure, Student3- Format the brochure.

Do you see the problem with this? One person was doing all the research, citing, summarizing, etc. while the others did much less work. No wonder the student turned to plagiarism!

Funny pie chart discussing the faults of group projects
Now, part of this is just part of life. Just like in real life, sometimes you'll be doing group projects with people who try to take credit for your work, don't do as much, or are perfectionists who want you to re-do everything you do!

It is true that life isn't fair, but I feel that teachers should make grading as fair as possible.


  • Have team members grade one another. This is a popular way of keeping students involved. I usually make a "teamwork" grade worth about 5% of the total.
  • Portion of a sample rubric
    • Give a rubric!
      • You can see a small portion of a rubric that I've used before. to the right.
    • Give them a number of points they can divide among the group
      •  For example in a group of three I may give 10 points.
      • If the students feel that their two team members worked well together they'd give each member 5 points. 
      • On the other hand, if they feel that one partner did a bit more than the other they would give one person 6 and one person 4
      • Consequently, if one team member was amazing and one team member was pretty lousy the points could be divided as 9 points and 1 point.
    • Pros: Students feel like they get a say. Cons: Some students will grade based on personal relationship, not actual effort (most of my students seem to be honest when filling these out). 
  • Divide the work. I am not a huge fan of this with most projects, but with some projects it works well (and lends itself to differentiation).
  • A confession bear meme describing what many students feel
    • For example, if the students are working on an essay together make one student in charge of the First Body Paragraph, another the Second Body Paragraph, and the third the Last Body paragraph.
    • I am not a huge fan of this as I think that part of the joy (and horror) of working in a group is that you get to use the weaknesses and strengths of other members to work TOGETHER in a finished product. However, sometimes this works well.
  • Assess what you see  
    • Sometimes I have my groups work during class. At this point I literally assess what I see.
      • One student is writing, another is researching and a third is working on math homework... the math homework one won't receive the same grade as the others.
    •  Have students use something like primary pad and you can track who is typing what.
    • Some students perceive this as unfair because group-work is more than what is done in class or on the computer (which is true).
  • Just give one grade
    • Don't grade based on the effort or work done by individuals students, just grade the finished product and let everyone have the same grade. 
      • If a team builds something assess purely the end result and have all members get the same grade.
      • Many students protest this because it doesn't reflect the effort and time they put into it. It is however very similar to many real life situations.  
I'd love to get input from other teachers (or students). How do you grade group work? Do you let students grade one another for teamwork?


  1. Very helpful..i will try to apply these new strategies in my class...thanks alot

  2. One of the tenets of "cooperative learning" is "individual accountability" so it is arguable whether to assess the "end result". I believe that one should resort to Spencer Kagan and Lev Vygotsky to provide sound tips

    1. Great point! I have gotten some e-mails adding to your opinion and hope to be able to post a related follow up with more ideas soon :)

  3. These are some great ideas. When I let students grade each other unfortunately, they tend to either give each other really high or really low grades. I don't know how to get around that. It seems like some students are just uncomfortable grading--they don't want to insult or hurt other students. Or they feel that they aren't qualified. And then some students think it's funny to give all 0s.

    1. Good points! I find you need really specific rubrics, and a STRONG assurance that it is private. An alternative I've done is have them write down what they did and what they saw everyone else do. Then I basically look and grade them based on that. I really think you need to have the right kind of class to do this.

  4. I like these ideas. I do have issues with students grading each other. They tend to either give 100s or 0s. They don't take it seriously or maybe they don't want to say bad things about each other. Or hurt each other. Or they give 0s and criticize everything. No idea how to get over that.

    1. It can be tough! I think as Claudie below mentioned sometimes it depends on their maturity. Other times, being very specific and promising anonymity can help.

  5. What a conumdrum. This feels like "Work Evaluation" stuff - and we know how we all love that.

    Hehehe - I'm that bear. And the spider. I once refused to work in a group on a university course.

    Children/young people do not have that choice - so the best I can suggest is that the group work is seen as a chance to vary the pace, hopefully enjoy doing the projects, see the potential of co-operative work and input, and come out at the end satisfied with oneself. You get marks for having fun!

    Peer /self evaluation? - how old are these students? Over sixteen - OK, don't love it, but OK. Under that - slippery slope - too many variables. If there is some "content' that needed to be covered - maybe could give a group mark based on holistic assessment. Or a really Mickey mouse test on the content that everyone aces...

    Sounds like you are struggling yourself with this - which is what a good teacher should do.

    Carissa - this discussion is intereting in the light of the trending towards personalised learning. "Goodbye group work - hullo personalised learning?" Good teachers have always found a way to personalise instruction. I'm sure you did even as you were "grading" this - kept it light and were supportive and encouraging to all.

    1. I think that individual learning is great! However, all students should learn how to work in a group. I find often now that group work is not taught and students really struggle at how to work in a group. In University I studied group dynamics and was really fascinated at how working as a group can really amp up the thinking! This is what I want my students to feel.

      These specific students are all over 16 and we still have plenty of variables. Nonetheless, I find peer and self evaluations to be helpful tools.

      Thanks for your comment :)


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