Individual grades or one group grade shared by all members?

Two ants carrying an apple.

A group is a team. Whether you assign students to groups or students select their teammates, hopefully, most students will feel committed to a common goal. Individual accountability is essential for a group to work effectively and produce worthwhile results. When each member of a group receives the same grade, personal accountability becomes an issue.

You may find it a challenge to determine individual grades for a group project. Some instructors assign all members the same grade on their group assignment. This eliminates competition within the group and keeps the focus on collaboration. To lessen students' concern over a shared grade, be sure the group grade is only a small percentage of their total grades.

Or, you can use a variety of assignments to grade each student's contribution. You can ask for peer evaluations, and review each member's test scores, surveys, and reflective writing assignments.

Peer assessment advantages

With peer assessment, students participate in the evaluation process. They comment on and judge each group member's work. You can use the feedback to add a participation grade or bonus points to reward group members who fulfilled the outlined requirements.

If group members are aware in advance that they'll have to rate their peers, students may feel a greater sense of involvement and responsibility. The team may produce a higher quality end product and learn more when they know that their evaluators are working alongside them. You can use peer assessment as part of the collaborative process, and not just as a survey submitted at the end when no opportunity for improvement is possible. You can ask for quick checks of how the collaborative process is working.

Ultimately, when you assign a grade for a group's achievement and the contributions of the individual members, consider these questions:

  • How has the group evaluated its success and each other?
  • Does the group deliverable meet the assignment's requirements?

Rubrics and progress reports

Provide rubrics, standards, and guidelines before students assess each other's work. Take the time to meet virtually with each team to discuss team roles. Discuss how you expect the team to work together, how often meetings need to take place, and how the peer assessment portion affects their final grades.

You can use a simple weekly progress report to help group members stay on track. Include three or four of these questions:

  • Did your group achieve the week's goals?
  • Did you spend enough time on the group work?
  • Did all members contribute equally?
  • Did the members work well together?
  • What else could you have contributed to help your team this week?
  • What else could others have contributed to help your team this week?
  • Who contributed the most or least this week?
  • What is one aspect of the team dynamic that you would change?
  • What are three positives and one negative about your group experience this week?

More on grading group assignments

More on rubrics