Evaluating Group Projects


When instructors incorporate group assignments and activities into their courses, they must make decisions regarding how to organize the groups, how to facilitate them, and how to evaluate the completed work. With regard to evaluation, the principles of assessment that apply to evaluating individual students’ work apply to group work as well; however, assessing group work has additional aspects to consider. Specifically, in addition to evaluating the group’s output, instructors need to find ways to determine how the group functioned and the extent to which each individual contributed to the effort. To obtain this information, additional sources of data may be needed.

Evaluation Considerations Include the Following: ​​​​​​​

  1. Develop learning objectives for the group project.
    Learning objectives are statements that articulate the specific, measurable outcomes that an instructor expects successful students to achieve by the end of a course. The literature on course design recommends alignment among the three major course components: learning objectives, assessments, and instructional strategies. Learning objectives can be viewed as the foundation for the process of creating alignment.  They are the starting point for designing the rest of a course: aligning objectives to tests and assignments and then to class activities that teach students the skills needed to accomplish these objectives. In this case, the instructor must consider whether the learning objectives for a group project should include objectives related to process as well as product and individual performance as well as group performance.
    ▶ Developing Student Learning Objectives
  2. Create a rubric to set evaluation expectations. 
    A rubric is a scoring guide that articulates and assesses specific components and expectations for an assignment. The rubric can be holistic (one overall rating) or analytic (several relevant dimensions). Analytic rubrics have three components: (a) dimensions of performance that will be assessed, (b) the characteristics associated with each dimension, and (c) a rating scale that identifies students’ level of mastery within each criterion. In this case, depending on the learning objectives identified, the instructor must decide on which dimension each objective is to be rated (e.g., product and/or group functioning) and the indicators of level of performance to be rated (e.g., what constituted outstanding performance).
    ▶  Creating Rubrics​​​​​​​
  3. Share rubric with students.
    Student should be made aware as early as possible of the expectations for the assignment (as well as for the entire course). This information can be included in the syllabus, where the assignments are described, or provided when assignment are described in class. By examining the rubrics, students should be able to know how they will be graded and what they must do to attain each grade. This clarity is especially important in groups, so there is no confusion about expectations among the participating members.
  4. During the group work process, give regular feedback, so the group members can assess their progress and modify their behavior, if necessary. 
    This can be achieved by:

    1. ​​​​​​​Periodically observing group meetings.
    2. Holding individual meetings with group members to review project status.
    3. Requiring students to keep journals of events that occur in each group meeting and submit them periodically. These might include information on who attended, what was discussed, and plans for future meetings.
    4. Asking students to keep minutes for each group meeting and submit them regularly. These might include who attended, tasks completed, tasks planned, and contributors to various tasks.
  5. Assess product and/or process, depending on the learning objectives.
    The major indicator of the success of the group project will be the final product that results from their work. As indicated, the dimensions for the rubric chosen should reflect the learning objectives for the project and may be similar to those used in evaluating individual products.Additionally, the learning objectives for a group project may also include the development of skills related to functioning as a member of a group. If developing teamwork skills is one of the learning objectives, it is important to assess students’ progress toward that goal; that is, to assess how students work, as well as the work they produce.Process can be assessed according to a number of dimensions, such as the generating a range of ideas, listening respectfully to disparate perspectives, distributing work fairly, resolving differences, and communicating effectively. These skills should be explicitly and clearly defined so they can be easily rated. Because instructors often don’t have a direct window into the dynamics of student groups, they may have to rely on teams to self-report via team evaluations, peer evaluations, and/or self-evaluations.
  6. Assess the performance of both the group and the individual members.
    Most frequently, the performance of the entire group is assessed to determine the final grade for the project. The evaluation system, however, can also be used to encourage individual accountability as well as teamwork. Students working in groups can be discouraged if they feel that their own success is dependent on team members who don’t do their share. One way to counteract this problems is to assess individual students’ learning and performance in addition to the group’s output. This strategy gives hard working students a greater sense of fairness and control and discourages “free ridership.” This can be done by evaluating individual contributions to the project and process.It also is important to assess individual understanding in addition to group product and process in order to ensure individual accountability. The instructor might decide to ask individual students to demonstrate their learning through independent write-ups, a short essays, weekly journal entries, content quizzes, or other types of individual assignments. Students can also be asked to write brief essays reflecting on what they have learned. The results of these regular assessments can provide instructors with feedback about student progress and allow the instructors, in turn, to provide feedback to students.
  7. Include both instructor and peer evaluations.
    Instructor evaluations should be based on the rubrics provided to students at the start of the project; they most often focus on the product (e.g., paper, presentation, or intervention). In addition, students can be asked to rate other group members on specific criteria. This strategy is especially helpful in evaluating individual contributions to group process. An instructor can determine what each group member has contributed to the group by asking team members to complete an evaluation form regarding group process for other group members. Students may feel social pressure not to give negative ratings; however, this approach can provide important information about the dynamics within groups and the contributions of individual members.
  8. Consider asking for self-evaluations.
    Students can rate themselves on the same criteria they use to rate other group members, or they can write a short paper assessing their individual contribution to the group. They can focus on evaluating their own teamwork skills and their contributions to the group’s process using a self-assessment of the process skills the instructor has articulated. These process skills may include respectfully listening to and considering opposing views or a minority opinion, effectively managing conflict regarding differences in ideas or approaches, keeping the group on track both during and between meetings, promptness in meeting deadlines, and appropriate distribution of research, analysis, and writing. One approach might include asking students to complete a short survey that focuses on their individual contributions to the group, how the group interacted together, and what they learned from the project.
  9. Decide on criteria, sources, and weighting of ratings to determine project final grade.
    If the learning objectives include both product and process learning, both should be reflected in students’ grades although the weight accorded each will depend on the specific learning objectives for the course and for the assignment. Additionally, in determining a project grade, an instructor might weigh the finished product and individual contributions differently. For example, in a system in which both group and individual performance are reflected in the total project grade, some faculty members make the group grade worth 50% and the individual grade worth 50%; others split it 80%/20%. There’s no perfect breakdown, but the grading scheme should reflect objectives for student learning and should be specified in the project rubrics.
    ▶ Grading Methods for Group Work
    In another example, a model is proposed that incorporates (a) peer ratings of each group member’s contributions, (b) using the ratings to determine a weighting factor for each individual, and (c) assigning individuals their group grade adjusted according to their individual weighting factor (Sharp, 2006). In this model, students who are perceived by peers to have contributed relatively more to the project will receive grades higher than the group grade, and those perceived to have contributed relatively less will receive grades lower than the group grade. The handout provides a formula for calculating the weighting factor (which takes into account both the ratings assigned to the individual student and those assigned to all other students in the group).
    ▶ Evaluating Collaborative Coursework


Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation​​​​​​​
Presents a discussion of evaluating group work and an example of a group work assessment rubric.
Group Work: How to Evaluate It
Example of Group Work Rubric​​​​​​​


Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation
Provides an example of a rubric for assessing group work, as well as samples of forms for evaluating group process and self and peer evaluations.
How Can I Assess Group Work?
Assessing Group Work
Grading rubric for a Group Project
Group and Self-Assessment 


University of Tennessee Walker Center for Teaching and Learning
Provides a list of techniques for evaluating group projects as well as multiple examples of forms.
Evaluating Group Projects


University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill Center for Faculty Excellence
This handout focuses on evaluating collaborative coursework and includes detailed instruction for using a model to derive individual grades from collaborative work.
Evaluating Collaborative Coursework


Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
This is a general discussion of aspects of group work with a brief allusion and some links to evaluation.
Group Work: Using Cooperative Learning Groups Effectively


University of California/Santa Cruz Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning
Provides a handout with guidelines for designing group projects, which discusses accessibility and includes a brief section on assessment.
7 Tips for Designing Effective and Accessible Group Work


University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
These two links include a brief summary of guidelines for using groups effectively and a list of resources on the topic.
Guidelines for Using Groups Effectively
Teaching Strategies: Using Group Work and Team Work


University of New South Wales Teaching
Includes a list of ways to encourage students to reflect on their participation in group activities and identify how they can improve as well as a variety of ways to assess group work.
Supporting Students to Reflect on their Group Work
Assessing by Group Work


University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence
Lists advantages and disadvantages of various approaches to assessment of group work.
Methods for Assessing Group Work


University of Alberta Center for Teaching and Learning
This is a discussion of evaluating group work and participation and a summary table.
Assessing Group Work and Participation
Assessing Group Work


University of Central Florida Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository
Provides examples of forms for peer evaluation of group members’ participation and contribution.
Use Group Evaluating to Assess Group Work


University of California/Davis Teaching online
Provides information on group work online, including grading rubrics.
Group Work and Participation


Oregon State University Center for Teaching and Learning
Focuses on assessing student learning in group projects. It addresses the issues of the balance between group output and individual student performance as well as the balance between product and process.
Assessing group projects