TEA-LP Webinar: Assessing Groupwork
The TEA-LP project team delivered another curriculum design webinar, this time focussing on the assessment of groupwork, as part of our ongoing virtual technical assistance to partner universities, in lieu of the third face‑to‑face workshop that could not take place this year.
The TEA-LP partners’ Employer Needs Assessments, concluded in the early part of 2020, unanimously identified the ability to work effectively with peers in a team environment as an essential soft skill required in almost every area of the professional energy access field. As such, teamwork skills are included in the MSc programme-level outcomes of all TEA-LP programmes. These learning outcomes are also further disaggregated in various courses and modules within the programmes.
Assessing the skill of groupwork – i.e. of a student’s ability to work effectively in a team – is arguably more complex than it would initially seem. In traditional higher education settings, the lecturer might give the class a groupwork assignment; the class would divide or be divided into groups, go off and complete the assignment, and the lecturer would then grade the product of that assignment – whether it be a group report, poster, design, etc. However, whilst the product might reflect the result of the group’s collective efforts, it does not necessarily illustrate the process of how the students actually interacted and worked together on the project.
For example, the group might produce an outstanding report where in fact one brilliant student did all the work whilst their group colleagues were not given space to contribute, or perhaps made no effort to do so. The lecturer might award a very high grade for the output (product) of the group assignment, but such a high grade would not necessarily be reflective of an individual student’s process of collaboration. Under this scenario the groupwork learning outcome would not have been summatively assessed (recalling from previous webinars that all learning outcomes should be SMARTTT) .
The aim of the webinar, led by Leslie Ashburner with support from Dr Mary Omingo and Shanali Govender, was to throw light on the challenge of summatively assessing groupwork. The webinar included a great deal of discussion among partners on methods and strategies that could be used to grade the process of a collaborative assessment task more directly and fairly.
Some of the possibilities discussed included student peer assessment – where group members grade each other (anonymously or openly) and student self-assessment – where each group member grades themself. Depending on the rules and regulations at a particular institution, however, self and peer assessment grades may or may not be eligible to contribute towards a student’s grade.
The webinar also focused on the importance of using detailed rubrics to define and establish clear grading criteria for successful groupwork, which should be shared with students in advance for full transparency and to ensure they understand exactly what is required of them.