Assessing Group Work

Google Apps will make it easier for students together in groups. The Google Docs revisions feature will make it possible for a teacher to see each student’s contribution to the final work. That’s useful, but how else may we teach and assess collaboration?

Teaching the skill of collaboration and using varied assessment methods provides a more complete learning experience. Individual contributions tell only part of the story. What else should we consider? What expectations did we communicate for how they would work together? Did we teach collaboration or just put students together in groups? How did we structure the groups to maximize student success?

Preparing to work
What group norms did students establish before starting project work? Did each group member adopt a definable role? Did students identify a way to ensure equitable distribution of work?

Doing the work
How did students coordinate tasks and keep on schedule? How did they communicate with each other during the project? Did they do their work gradually over time or all at once? How did students resolve disagreements during the project?

After the project
Ask students to write about the project after completion. How did the experience go for them? Was each person’s input included? Did the group stick to the norms they chose at the start of the project?

Further Reading
Designing Groupwork (Elizabeth Cohen)
Enhancing Education (Carnegie Mellon University)
Assessing Learning in Australian Universities (Centre for the Study of Higher Education)


  1. What great work you are doing. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Peter Gow says:

    There’s also the matter of group composition in the first place. How do you put them together? Separate friends? Mixed strengths? Similar strengths together? This all has quite a bearing on evaluation at the other end and on equitable distribution of effort as the work goes on. Even with Google docs it’s possible for the reluctant to, er, opt out of some of the heavy lifting.

    One way to keep the workload even is to have kids brainstorm task lists and then assign tasks IN WRITING, preferably in a relatively public–or at least teacher-accessible–space. You can set up process charts for each task, with check-ins–sort of like Gantt charts, scaled down. There probably should be a quality control function included, maybe with cross-checks–so everyone has a role in “quality assurance.”

    They’re still in .doc form, but I’ve got samples of various templates for student group work from a preso I did at NAISAC a few years back. Think these would be pretty easy to adapt to digital formats and Web 2.0 tools. Anyone can shoot me an email at and I’ll ship them along.

  3. Richard says:

    You, too! I appreciated your comments during the ISED tweetchat the other day. Very insightful and thought-provoking in 140 characters or fewer!

  4. Richard says:

    Absolutely, Peter. Designing Groupwork and “Enhancing Education” offer further details about group composition and templates for tracking and assessment. In my experience, assigning effective groups is very hard to do well with younger students, because the additional layer of relationships/social dynamics features so strongly in the classroom.