Group work assessment: benefits, problems and implications for good practice

Antony Mellor

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Group work has become increasingly important in higher education, largely as a result of the greater emphasis on skills, employability and lifelong learning. However, it is often introduced in a hurry, can be unsupported and may be assessed without fully exploring the consequences ( Both group work and its assessment have been the focus of considerable research and debate in the higher education literature; see for example reviews by Webb (1994), Nightingale et al. (1996) and Boud et al. (1999). Davis (1993) identifies three types of group work: formal learning groups, informal learning groups and study groups. Formal groups are established to complete a specific task in one class session or over many weeks, such as a laboratory experiment or the compilation of an environmental impact report. Informal groups involve ad hoc clusters of students who work in class to discuss an issue or test understanding. Study teams are formed to provide support for members, usually for the duration of a project or module. This guide will focus on formal group activity and its assessment. Group work is highly complex, however, and assessment should consider both the product or outcome and the process of student learning (Webb 1994, Glebhill and Smith 1996). Consequently, the development of effective group work assessment strategies, designed to engage the students and provide the best possible learning experience, raises a number of important questions. For example, what is the most effective group size? How should the groups be formed? How can we best prepare students for group work? What are the most effective ways of supporting groups and individuals within them? To what extent should group progress be monitored by tutors? How should we assess group work and where does the balance lie between product and process, and group and individual? What is the most effective way of gathering meaningful student feedback for 2 the purposes of evaluation and review? This guide will explore these questions and many others. It will begin by looking at the benefits of group work and its assessment before exploring some of the key concerns. It will then reflect on some personal experiences and lessons learned from the planning and delivery of group work assessment strategies, with a view to providing some ideas and tips for good practice.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNewcastle upon Tyne, UK
PublisherNorthumbria University
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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