How can we ensure that there are processes in place for marked group work? What are some of the challenges of group work for marks? What set up could lead to fewer complaints and appeals?
Reasons Students Attempted to Appeal Group Work Results (Review of appeals, 2014)
Examples of student concerns included: Rules not clear. Not clear on what happens if a student contributes to preparation but absent from the presentation? Part marks? Can a student present again if ill? If the group has challenges are they counseled and given options? If one student does less/performs poorly will the faculty assign differing marks? If one student is a weak presenter does everyone suffer?
Group Writing Projects
Examples of student concerns included: Rules for projects not clear; no guidance on how to handle communication with rude/difficult/harassing group members; no process for presenting a concern; if a group’s challenge can’t be resolved, options not fair in terms of providing each member time and resources to complete after group dissolved; is it ok for the students to chop the work up and paste it together at the end or does this fail to ensure that each student has demonstrated the outcomes mapped to this evaluation; no class time provided for the group work with faculty advice available; faculty told students to just sort it out themselves; substantial peer mark indefensible; peers were expected to measure each other against course outcomes, expect student to have transportation to or time for group meetings outside of college hours; peer to peer feedback not well-planned; inter-group problems included harassment; faculty did not provide guidance or justification for set up of the peer mark; did not problem solve with a student who raised a concern; thought students should manage group work on their own; did not discourage off-campus group meetings. One student did all the work.
Making Group Marking Manageable
Structure the Project into Stages
Chunk the project into stages of completion, to help students break tasks down into manageable and assignable components. After the initial stage (locating the topic, finding initial resources, planning work division and timing, etc.), review the group’s progress on that deliverable. Provide formative feedback on how they proceeded, and identify possible challenges they may face.
Check In With Groups and Individuals
If you want to know who did the work, incorporate checkpoints. Set aside class time to have each group member show you the work in their folder on their computer or to lay it out. Require the group to keep a log of time spent with dates, hours, tasks accomplished. It is best to have them use a group folder and discussions in eConestoga to house evidence of progress across time.
Be Cautious when using Peer Assessments
Avoid allowing students to assign marks to each other beyond a minimally weighted peer check (e.g. 10% of an assignment which is 40% of the course mark). It is your role as Professor to determine the extent to which each student has met the learning outcomes for the course (summative assessment).
Build Self-Assessment into the Group Project
Create a component to the group assignment where group members individually reflect on how successfully they contributed to their group. This could be as simple as a brief paragraph outlining their strengths and challenges as a contributor, or as interesting as individual debriefs with you. Assign this task a few marks (perhaps 5%) for completion, and offer a bit of feedback about their contribution, and future strengths or challenges when working in a group. Ideally, this would happen near the end of the assignment, and should appear on your rubric.
When Grading Presentations
Be very careful with your rubric. You can’t justify assigning the same mark to each person for presentation skills (volume, clarity of expression, attention to audience etc.) If such individual skills exist in your rubric, mark each student separately for that section.
Divide the product from the presentation of the product. If a student misses the actual presentation, they will still have demonstrated the course outcomes in the product.
Revisit your Rubric
Take a look over your rubric and identify areas of improvement. Include the self-assessment component into your project rubric. Give each student a marked copy of the rubric, rather than giving the whole group one marked rubric – this gives them each the chance to refer back to their progress on this task. Offer feedback on their self assessment either on this rubric, or more confidentially via eConestoga email.
Marking for Larger Groups
If your students are demonstrating a work process that does involve a large team, then explain the rationale carefully. You, and the students, will still have a challenge in managing the scale of the group. Each student may not perform all the components and then you may not be measuring each against the associated course outcomes. To help this, chunk the assignment to help students distribute work fairly, and require each student make a contribution to core components.
Group Marking and Plagiarism or Cheating
Use Turnitin in eConestoga
Students all put their names to the written product but it takes a very experienced reader to locate plagiarism. You should have the group use Turnitin when submitting the assignment in the eConestoga drop box. You must first click that feature on, when constructing the assignment dropbox in eConestoga. That way you can say all group members were supposed to review the “Turnitin” report prior to final submission to you.
Consider the international Perspective
International students may not fully understand the expectation for original and independently created work, or may fear failing their group with their writing skills. Be sure to provide some in-class group time so you can sit down with each group and discuss how they are assembling the project and review your expectations.
Hold Correct Parties Accountable
It may not be advisable to charge all students in a group when it is found one has plagiarized or cheated on their section.. You may need to follow the electronic threads of file exchange to locate the individual.
When to File an Academic Offense
If the group buys a product online or submits someone else’s entire work as their own then this is cheating, not plagiarism.
You may have cases where students work in class on general ideas and then you see those ideas in two papers. This may not be what you wanted but it may be hard to provide evidence that this was cheating, rather than collaboration, unless the work is word-for-word.