Deakin University

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Assessing group work

posted on 2002-01-01, 00:00 authored by Marcia Devlin
When effective group management processes are employed, clear assessment guidelines developed and communicated and valid and fair grading processes employed, the likelihood of positive learning outcomes and student satisfaction with group activities is significantly increased. Alternatively, if students cannot see the objective of group work, are unsure of what is expected of them, or believe the assessment methods are invalid or simply unfair, the educational benefits are reduced and tensions can emerge. The conditions under which group work is conducted are crucial to its success:

Group work, under proper conditions, encourages peer learning and peer support and many studies validate the efficacy of peer learning. Under less than ideal conditions, group work can become the vehicle for acrimony, conflict and freeloading. It may also impose a host of unexpected stresses on, for example, students with overcrowded schedules living long distances from the University.
(University of Wollongong assessment policy, 2002).

The educational benefits of students working cooperatively in groups are well recognised. Among other things,
• studying collaboratively has been shown to directly enhance learning;
• employers value the teamwork and other generic skills that group work may help develop; and
• group activities may help academic staff to effectively utilise their own time.

The design of assessment is central to capturing the benefits of group work and avoiding its pitfalls. Assessment defines the character and quality of group work. In fact, the way in which students approach group work is largely determined by the way in which they are to be assessed.

To maximise student learning in group activities, this section offers advice on how academic staff can:
• establish explicit guidelines for group work to ensure that learning objectives are met and to ensure that they are transparent and equitable; and
• manage the planning, development and implementation of processes and procedures for learning through group work and group assessment.


Title of book

Assessing learning in Australian universities : ideas, strategies and resources for quality in student assessment


Centre for the Study of Higher Education

Place of publication

Melbourne, Vic.







Publication classification

BN.1 Other book chapter, or book chapter not attributed to Deakin

Copyright notice

2002, Australian Universities Teaching Committee.


R James, C McInnis, M Devlin

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