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Grading Group Projects

This discussion of how to grade group projects took place on WMST-L in
October/November 1997.  For additional WMST-L files available on the Web,
see the WMST-L File List.


Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 10:13:34 -0500
From: Lillie Sharon Ransom <lsransom @ WAM.UMD.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
I have a dilemma that I hope others on the list can help me with.  One for
the four assignments I am using in a Theories of Feminism course this
semester is a group project.  The final result of the project is a paper.
All of the groups (except one to whom I granted an extension after their
topic needed to change) have handed in their papers.  I have __not__ read
the papers yet so I have no sense of the quality of them.
However, an individual from one of the groups has contacted me with her
concern that her group's paper is of lesser quality than it should be.
She cited a few examples and basically says she ended up doing 3/4 or the
work at the last minute because others didn't keep their part of the
One of my specific guidelines for the paper is to (at the end) discuss the
group process, what it was like, pros and cons, etcetera.  I have no idea
if or how that group handled this portion but I'm feeling awkward about
her approaching me in the way she has, and imo attempting to "divorce"
herself from the group work.
I've managed to postpone a conversation with this student until Monday
(today is Thursday) but I need advice and suggestions about how to handle
this situation.
You may respond privately.
Thank you in advance,
Lillie S. Ransom, Ph.D.
Affiliate Faculty
Women's Studies Program and Department
University of Maryland, College Park
lsransom  @  wam.umd.edu

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 11:12:30 -0500
Subject: Grading Group Projects
Precisely because of the types of problem Lillie is encountering, I
have always made group projects an option rather than obligatory.  It
seems to me a student has a right to have her work judged on its own
merits. If she wants to go to graduate school, or apply for a
fellowship, it is her record that will be subjected to judgment, not
the group's.  The problem of unequal contributions is a predictable
one and cannot be controlled by the professor.  In this instance, it
seems to me the professor needs to investigate and learn how the group
in fact functioned and who did what.  I do not believe the student
should be exposed to criticism for breaking away from the group. Her
concerns may be entirely legitimate.  Justice to an individual student
concerned about her own work should not be set aside for the sake of
promoting collectivism.  Our job, it seems to me, is to help our
students develop intellectually, not to instil in them particular
social or political attitudes.
Daphne.Patai  @  spanport.umass.edu

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 11:28:44 -0400
From: Christine Smith <CSMITH @ VMS.CIS.PITT.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
I remember being a more than slightly obsessive undergrad.
I hated group projects, because I wanted my grade to be mine,
and not have it depend on others.  If I did poorly, it was
because I didn't work hard enough.  Invariably, I ended up
doing the vast majority of the work.
Now, as a professor, I rarely do group projects.  Last
semester, for the first time, I gave students the option of
working in pairs for a final project (developing a zine).
I did find that the projects of those who worked in pairs
tended to be better.
Personally, I feel a clash between  feminist pedegogy
and my own memories as an undergrad.  Daphne Patai
pointed out that when students go to grad school, their work is
judged as their own.  As an undergrad I was acutely
aware of that.
Christine Smith
csmith  @  axpvm1.cis.pitt.edu
casmith  @  lclark.edu

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 11:34:01 -0500
From: Sally Harrison-Pepper <Sallynla @ AOL.COM>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
I use Group Projects very often in all of my courses.  Here's one way in
which I calculate grades:
Describe your participation in the final project.  Discuss and evaluate, in sp
ecific and concrete detail, the contributions you made to your group's
project.  Describe the things you did well, and also describe the areas in
which you could have done better.  At the conclusion of your self-evaluation,
give yourself a grade on your participation in this project, using the
following guidelines:
A     extraordinary; far exceeded the basic requirements for group work
B    very good work; generally exceeded the basic requirements
C    met the basic requirements for group work
D    fell below the basic requirements for group work
LENGTH:  1-2 pages
Write the name of each member of your project group, and beneath each
person's name, provide 2-3 sentences describing their participation in and
contributions to the project.  Provide each person a grade using the above
Preliminary Presentation (group grade)       10%
Self-Evaluation                               5%
Peer-Evaluation (average of all peer grades)   5%
Final Presentation (group grade)                   10%
Sally Harrison-Pepper
Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
Miami University, Oxford OH
e:  sallynla  @  aol.com

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 11:41:43 -0500
From: Maria Pramaggiore <maria_p @ UNITY.NCSU.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
I have used a group project in the past, but part of the project
grade was individual and part of it a group grade.  A student
could get an A because the group did well and have to combine that with a
C because his or her contribution was minimal.
The individual grade was based on each group member's anonymous
evaluation of all group members (they turned in unsigned grade sheets
with letter grades--thus they graded themselves as well).
Students who had not pulled their weight were marked down by their
co-workers--in all cases those receiving poor individual grades
were given poor marks by many other group members, not just one or two.
This obviously requires larger groups (5 or 6 or more).
I find group projects very difficult to evaluate, assign them very
infrequently, and share some of the same concerns Daphne raised in her email.
But I don't see them as forcing a political agenda.  Collaborating helps
students develop intellectually.  And, on a less lofty note, many
workplaces are structured in terms of groups and teams.  Experience
with collaboration prepares students for a corporate environment,
oddly enough!
Maria Pramaggiore
North Carolina State University
maria_p  @  unity.ncsu.edu
> promoting collectivism.  Our job, it seems to me, is to help our
> students develop intellectually, not to instil in them particular
> social or political attitudes.
> ======================
> Daphne.Patai  @  spanport.umass.edu

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 08:52:20 -0800
From: Joan Starker <jstarker @ TELEPORT.COM>
Subject: small group discussions
Small group discussion groups have always been an integral part of my
classroom structure.  This term I have one group that is having
some interpersonal conflicts - which is interfering with the learning
experience.  The other groups are working effectively.  Except for the
group project ( which is oral), they no longer have to meet together.
They just informed me of the problem - two students approached me
What has been your experience re: dealing with such conflict?
Have you stepped in or let the students work it out? In the past, I have
sat in on groups.  However, the minute I sit in the dynamics totally
change.  Has anyone devised any guidelines for group discussion?
As for the group grading issue, over the years I have eliminated the
written group project and have used only an oral format - and everyone
in the group has to participate.  Sometimes I have used an individual
group project processing form (to be filled out in class) so that I can
check on the dynamics.
Joan Starker, Ph.D.
Lewis and Clark College

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 10:48:31 -0600
From: Carol Cyganowski <ccyganow @ SHRIKE.DEPAUL.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
I think there is a "real world" (beyond graduate school) applicability to
being able to do and to negotiate the tensions of group projects.  In the
corporate and institutional world, much of the doing is by group or
committee.  Professionals need to deal with the group members (even academic
colleagues, right?) who don't do their parts and who don't inform the other
group members until the eleventh hour.  This is about life, I think, not
particularly about feminist pedagogy.  The student who wants her "own grade"
and who wants to escape the consequences of a group project wants the
academic world to exist on a different plane.  That's ok; in many ways, it
does.  But the question would be, why a group assignment in the first place
and what are the goals of the course/program?  Do they include preparation
for life as a professional?
Faculty can "help" teach the processes and responsibilities of group
work--and can even require submission of intermediate stages of the project,
but nothing is going to keep the sluff-offs from sluffing off except
individual evaluation.  I have tried, among particularly recalcitrant
groups, individually grading intermediate stages, then group grading the
final project.
On the other hand, I use far fewer group projects than I formerly did,
because so many more of my students are commuters, or work almost full time,
or are parents and work almost full time that they find it very difficult to
get together to work on group projects.  We've dealt with some of these
time/space conflicts by using internet discussion lists and by students'
sharing computer wordprocessing files and using the compare document
features of advanced wordprocessing programs to compare drafts.  But little
of this works for students who don't have computers or modems available to
them at their homes or their offices, so there are always some who then feel
left out of the loop.
Carol Cyganowski
DePaul University, Chicago

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 12:29:53 -0500
From: JoAnn Castagna <joann-castagna @ UIOWA.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
At The University of Iowa, the College of Liberal Arts' statement on
plagiarism and cheating clearly indicates that students who do not do their
fair share of group projects are cheating and can be dealt with under the
academic discipline rules.  Here's a portion of our document, which is
published every semester in the Schedule of courses:
Plagiarism and Cheating
Plagiarism and cheating may result in grade reduction and/or other serious
penalties.  Plagiarism and cheating include, but may not be limited to:
presentation of the ideas of others without credit to the source;
use of direct quotations without quotation marks and without credit to the
paraphrasing without credit to the source;
participation in a group project which presents plagiarized materials;
failure to provide adequate citations for material obtained through
electronic research;
downloading and submitting work from electronic databases without citation;
submitting material created/written by someone else as one's own, including
purchased term/research papers;
copying from someone else's exam, homework, or laboratory work;
allowing someone to copy or submit one's work as his/her own;
accepting credit for a group project without doing one's share;
submitting the same paper in more than one course without the knowledge and
approval of the instructors involved;
using notes or other materials during a test or exam without authorization;
not following the guidelines specified by the instructor for a "take-home"
test or exam.
Students unclear about the proper use and citation of sources, or the
details and guidelines for any assignment, should discuss their questions
with the instructor.
The policy goes on to outline the steps an instructor takes whe plagiarism
or cheating is suspected, the student's options, and so on...
JoAnn Castagna                mailto:joann-castagna  @  uiowa.edu
Assistant to the Dean            [319] 335-2633
    for Academic Programs
The College of Liberal Arts
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa  52242

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 13:29:05 -0400
Subject: Grading Group Projects
    I've been following this thread with great curiosity.  I hate group
projects as a student and a professor -for all the reasons listed - fueled by
faculty (instructors I've had & peers) who take the approach of in life you
must cooperate and the group grade is it.  I have now also noted that this
"real world" argument has been raised here.
    I would like to comment on this --  Academia is NOT the real world. In
the real world you are not graded by an arbitary system which can possibly
effect all aspect of your life and future.  In the real world you
have the possiblity of looking for a new employer, where as the student may be
stuck taking a class to graduate.  Group projects in the real world are often
directly supervised or each person is assigned a task -not in academia.
Further, in the real world there is real incentive:  $.  In academia the
incentive is not there for many.  An A / a C - that's not the same as fired
from my job...  Further, in the real world there are grievence
procedure - very few exist in a classroom and even then typically only for
gross misconducts.
    Why I find this "real world" issue upseting is that in all other
contexts,  academia  very rarely is concerned about, or teaches or even
encourages people to teach about the "real world."  If it did, we would not
have an arbitrary grading system, we would not have issues of publish or
perish, we would not have 12 month contracts, our classes would not focus on
"theory,"  we would not label those who could think philisophically and who
quote known authors as "good students," and we would not complain about the
student who askes - why do i need to know this? How does it apply to me?
We would accomodate students with sick days, we would be admiting fewer
students, and we would be catering more to the students we have.  Remember the
customer is always right?  Why are we all complaining that it is now business
people running our universities - with business rather then educational
    Granted, we all do need to learn to play well with others.  Is a group
grade teaching that?  Do we ever set an example?  I find this very hard to
accept this is about life - this is about a contrived structure.
    I realize most people for what ever reason do not like to think about
it - but good, bad or indifferent, academia is not "the real world" and I think
the sooner we accept that, the better off we'd be.
Su Epstein, Ph.D.
SUNY   @   Oneonta NY
Dept of Sociology
epsteisc  @  snyoneva.cc.oneonta.edu

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 13:06:18 -0600
From: Darlaine Gardetto <socdcg @ SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
Dear List:
One of the ways I have gotten around the dilemma of wanting to encourage
group work while not penalizing students who end up matched with others who
don't really contribute much, is to have joint class presentations but
individually written papers.  I make the class presentations a much smaller
percentage of the grade and never allow a student who has done an excellent
job on her paper to be penalized because her group did poorly on the class
With this form of grading, weak students who make an effort have the
experience of working with stronger students with whom they can learn study
skills, etc., and stronger students get the experience of facilitating
others in need of help.
I know that many of us balk at the idea of turning over class time to
student presentations, but I have to say, when I do it, it is enevitably a
valuable experience for all the students in the class.  The important
thing, in my view, is to set clear guidelines (in written form) for the
presentation and the paper  and to engage the entire class with the student
presenters in the form of a dialogue following the presentations.
One of the ways I encourage students to dialogue, is to tell the
"non-presenters" that they can help their sister presenters by asking good
questions.  Good questions enable presenters to clarify muddied thoughts or
to extend their discussion to cover material they may have missed while in
"presentation mode."
Darlaine Gardetto

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 14:28:39 -0600
From: "Shirley J. Schwarz" <ss37 @ EVANSVILLE.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
For my group projects ending with a group paper, I have each student turn
in separate peer evaluations on each student participating in the group,
including the evaluator.
My peer evaluation is as follows; I would love to see any others used.
Guidelines for Peer Review of Group Project.
These guidelines apply to peer reviews done in collaborative groups.
Your class participation for the course is 20% of the grade; this
assigment plays an important roll in your overall participation grade.
I.      Write your own self-evaluation of your role in the group, explaining
 what role(s) you played as well as how effectively you feel that
you achieved this.  Below the list, write an essay explaining your
Consider some of the following contributions and add any others that you might
 have made:
1.    discussion, preparation and suggestions
2.     research
3.     writing
4.    leadership
5.     overall group contribution and grade
II.  Make a list of the names of the individuals in your group, and for
each, thoughfully consider their contributions to the group project.
Create a separate sheet for each individual; list your name at the top and
the name of the individual you are evaluating below this. Mark with an "S"
(in the margin) aspects of the contribution that were particularly strong.
Mark with a "W" those contributions which were particularly weak. Give
your reasons below on the same page. Try to be critical (e.g., see example
Give yourself plenty of time to consider these questions.  Consider the
following: What's the most effective part of the contribution? Why was
this the most effective part? What could the individual learn from this
part that s/he could use to improve the next group activity?  How could
the writer improve her/his use of discussion, research skills, writing,
editing skills, etc.
Evaluator:        Judy Smuthers
Group member:         Mark Smith
            1.      S
            2.    W
            3.    W
            4.    S
            5.     Good: grade B
                (or, Minimal: grade C-)
    Discussion and reasons:
    1.  Mark was particularly strong in our initital museum
discussions, making good suggestions, and observations. He noted for
example that the watercolor paper was of linen and the color applied in a
transparent fashion.  He was also helpful in organizing our group
    2.  He did not contribute any research to the paper.
    3.  When we arranged to meet to write the paper, he did not meet
with us nor help us to revise and edit the final product.  I did most of
the writing.
    4.  He was however, good in leading us through our analysis and in
asking the type of questions that helped to direct us to final analysis
and conclusions.
    5.  On the whole, his contribution was an integral part of making
our project a success.  Or, --- because Mark never participated in the
group discussions or contributed to the research and writing, I feel his
overall contribution was minimal and deserves a "D."
Shirley J. Schwarz, Professor        http://www.evansville.edu/~ss37
Dept. of Archaeology/Art History    ss37  @  evansville.edu
Univ. of Evansville            812/479-2171
1800 Lincoln Ave.
Evansville, IN 47722

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 14:11:44 -0400
From: "Sandra K. Gill" <sgill @ GETTYSBURG.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
I believe there are at least two reasons that group work is important in
feminist pedagogy.  First, most women see themselves as skilled in working
cooperatively.  Why do our teaching strategies have to follow a male model
and emphasize competitiveness?  Second, to me feminism implies that rather
than having a hegemonic notion of learning outcomes, we attempt to provide
students with multiple ways of learning in order that students with a wide
variety of learning styles have an opportunity to learn.
In my courses the entire group (4-6 students) is graded as a whole,
however, because class participation is an important factor in my final
grades, I can adjust the course grade when all members have not fully
participated in the project.
I have never asked for group papers, but the group presentations which are
central in my lower level Women's Studies courses have been outstanding.
This is in sharp contrast with the individual presentations which I have
had in other courses which tend to be boring at best.  One crucial point in
assuring the quality of the presentations is to require that the entire
group of students meet with you before the presentation.  I ask that they
meet twice, once about three weeks before and again the week before.  This
allows me to cope with any problems that may be developing in group
dynamics, and make sure that students are relying on appropriate texts.
Sally Harrison-Pepper's ideas about having students do self/group
evaluations are crucial.  My students are quite frank in admitting it when
they didn't do their share.
Sandra K. Gill
Associate Professor of Sociology
Gettysburg College, Box 412
Gettysburg, PA 17325
sgill  @  gettysburg.edu

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 15:29:51 -0600 (CST)
From: Shelley Reid <sreid @ AUSTINC.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
I do a lot of group work that doesn't receive a group grade, in part
because like many of you I had several of those awful group-project
experiences of having to do all the work myself as well as keep the
slackers entertained in the meantime.
But recently in my writing class I've been assigning a team-project,
group-graded essay, because I've read and been convinced by a number of
arguments praising collaboration as an effective task for improving
writing, collaboration as part of a college-age maturation process, and the
dreaded collaboration in the "real world."  My class does a lot of ungraded
collaboration and receives lots of instruction in how to be a good "team
writer"; I eventually decided that I wanted to formalize that part of their
instructional experience and reward them for their work therein. I am
fortunate to have students who mostly live on or very near campus; in
addition, I have tried to build in a number of safeguards as far as the
grading goes.
First, I give both individual and group grades, as others have suggested.
I have the project come due in several stages, as a way of having everyone
keep up.  I require group conferences in which I can see some of how the
group is working, and I require individuals to do both mid-project and
end-of-project progress reports evaluating (in response to very specific
questions) their own and other group members' contributions.  I also
require one of the earlier individual essays to be written on an aspect of
the group project, so that each person gets to earn some individual credit
for the research being conducted.  As a final note, I point out to worried
students that in the *unusual* case wherein their group essay gets a "C"
while they put in "A" work, the overall grade effect is likely to be
minimal:  a 20% drop on an essay worth even 15% of their final grade for
one class out of the 30+ classes they take is not quite the GPA earthquake
it seems at the time.  (Nor does an undeserved "A" usually rescue a slacker
from his/her own grade-point muddle.)
I do think that preparing students for common situations beyond college is
a good argument, despite the differences between an academic situation and
a work one.  On top of that, I would note that a lot of _college_ work,
particularly if you're working with primarily resident students, is
And more importantly, a percentage of the population actually *thrives* on
group work.  Learning styles surveys demonstrate repeatedly that many
students learn most effectively and enjoyably when they are involved in a
collaborative project -- whether it's the school play, the football team,
the jazz quartet, or their Monday morning class (all of these are
evaluated, if not factored into the GPA, as "group projects"). For these
students, the predominant "gotta do it all on your own" approach must be
really frustrating.  I like to provide an opportunity for them to shine, at
least on one project -- and then to be able to say, as they write those
application letters, "I motivated my group and helped them stay organized,
and everyone commented on how strong my contributions were."
I've had good success with my collaborative writing projects, as long as I
provide adequate support, create ways for me to keep an eye on team
progress, and include some method of measuring individual contributions.
sreid  @  austinc.edu

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 17:44:36 -0500
From: Michelle Duncan <mrd17 @ CORNELL.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
I wonder if group projects are really designed as equitable towards women.
In an ideal world, yes, learning how to work with a group could be
extremely profitable.  But I'm not sure that this type of work is really
equitable toward students other than the traditional, residential
Almost every non-traditional female student I know has had horrendous
experiences with group projects because of their "real world" situation.
Women who have enormous amounts of responsibility *in addition* to school
such as a part or full-time job, children or elderly parents for whom they
must care, commutes of long distances, etc. don't need this extra lesson.
If they didn't know how to negotiate with others, they wouldn't be in
Many traditional, residential, and non-working students (by working I
wouldn't necessarily include students who work, say, 5-10 hours a week in
work-study jobs to make "pocket money") have limitations that are often
unrecognized and disrespected by both students and profs.  Groups want to
meet during times convenient for the dorm resident (evenings) when women in
the "real world" are putting children to bed, working, or whatever, and
while one missed appointment might seem insignificant to a young woman with
no responsibilities, for her counterpart it means the loss of money for a
babysitter or an hour or two of work or even an hour or two of sleep.
Also, I think it should be mentioned that in general, non-traditional
students are over-sensitive to grading because they know the exact cost of
their education!  They know the sacrifice it is costing them and their
family and they know that they have given up corporate positions and/or
gone into debt for school and must therefore not only finish, by finish
well.  They need grades to get funding for grad. school, honors to show
that they have been good students.  At the end of the day, most companies
or grad schools aren't awed by a woman who finishes a degree while raising
a family (although everyone who does deserves a presidential award at
least).  They are awed by a woman who has made the grades and won the
If that means sitting in the computer lab all weekend because another in
the group flaked out and took off with her boyfriend to party somewhere in
SF (it happened to this single mom as an undergrad) then that's what we do.
Is it fair?  No, but it is probably better than dealing with the

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 14:53:36 -0800
From: Linda Deutschmann <ldeutschmann @ CARIBOO.BC.CA>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
This advice might come a bit late, but I always make sure that the
participants in the group provide me with an accounting of just where,
and what, their contribution was. I am uncomfortable with your discomfort
over this student. I was always the one doing more than half the
work, and, frankly, resentful of professors who were too lazy (IMO) to
keep track of who was doing what. If the student is telling the truth,
(and  I am inclined to believe her) you have put her in a situation of
doing the work, and then being called a tattle-tale, whistleblower or

Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 10:17:31 +1000
From: Laurel Anne Guymer <capri @ DEAKIN.EDU.AU>
Subject: small group discussions
i too have experienced intergroup conflict in one of my classes this year
so instead of the usual discussion following class papers I gave them a
topic to debate and split them into two groups so they could not make
vendettas against one another but had to argue from the position i gave
them - for some it was frustrating -others not so - it is not something to
do every week of course but i  think first year women's studies students
have dificulty argueing their own position so i give them one to start so
they can try to unpack the debate in a nonhostile environment
Laurel Guymer
capri  @  deakin.edu.au
ph 0352272018
fax 0352272018

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 19:22:32 -0400
From: Robin Ikegami <ikegami @ XAVIER.XU.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
I, too, occasionally assign group projects and assign a group grade.  Like
some others on the list, I keep close tabs on who is contributing what to
the group by having students do self and peer evaluations periodically as
the project develops.  In my courses, the group project accounts for about
ten percent of the final grade and consists of both an oral presentation
and a collaborative paper.  I get students started on the project at about
mid semester--at a point when they know each other, have worked with each
other in class, etc.--and I let them select their own groups.  I set aside
three full class periods, spaced appropriately apart, for group meetings
(this helps out commuters and others with particularly full schedules), and
it allows me to observe first-hand how the groups are working.  I specify
that every group member must contribute equally to both the paper and the
presentation and suggest ways of dividing responsibilities.  I distribute a
grading sheet early on, pointing out that group members not pulling their
weight will lose anywhere from 5% to 100% of the points the group earns.
I've had very good results with this procedure; students seem to feel
reassured by the periodic checks and the threat of individual grade
reduction--and these seem enough to spur even less energetic students to
keep up their end of the bargain.  And since they've self-selected their
groups, they know pretty much the personalities they'll be dealing with and
what they can tolerate in advance.
As far as dealing with Lillie Ransom's student, a conversation certainly
seems in order to determine how the events transpired.  Was there
miscommunication in the group?  Is the student unnecessarily anxious?  It
isn't too late to have all the groups do self/peer evaluations, is it?
Robin Ikegami, PhD
Department of English
Xavier University
Cincinnati, OH 45207-4446

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 19:26:53 -0500
From: "Carole E. Adams" <cadams @ PEGASUS.CC.UCF.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
I sent Lillie a private reply, but given the mail, I want to say here:
the misgivings about group work are well-put and should be considered.
But couldn't the answer for some teachers/ some classes be to use
principles of feminist pedagogy to deal with the drawbacks?
How about groups during class time?  Using internet or email?  Options for
group or individual work? Using mechanisms to get individual effort graded
fairly (as several people noted, there can be work as a group but
individual evaluation)?  I think
more students benefit from learning that cooperation, listening to others,
working toward consensus through discussion and debate (even if not
achieving it) are valuable skills and foster learning, than students are
harmed by participating -- when it is a well-thought out exercise...
Carole Elizabeth Adams
Women's Studies/ History
Uni of Central Florida

Date: Thursday, October 30, 1997 10:48AM
From: S. Chris Saad - <ssaad @ wcupa.edu>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
This is an important point. I assign group projects because I teach in a
special education department. As special education teachers, my students
will constantly be collaborating with general education teachers, physical
therapists, speech therapists, educational administrators, and parents. I
want the students to become adept at working with others so they will be
effective collaborators as professionals.
I find that I can often tell who is slacking off, even if nobody comes to me
to complain. The students often meet in the classroom or building hallway
before or after class, and it is easy to observe the group dynamics .Even
so, I still assign only a group grade for a group project. My rationale is
that it will be part of their jobs as teachers to cope effectively with
uninterested colleagues or parents, and nobody will give them extra points
just because they complain about these colleagues or parents.
(S. Chris Saad, PhD
ssaad  @  wcupa.edu)

Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 08:41:07 -0500
From: Mary Ann Drake <ddrake @ MYLINK.NET>
Subject: Grading Group Projects??
I kept following this discussion to see if someone described the process I
used. Here it is! This is exactly what I do and it works very well. I feel
this gives the students the benefits of learning to work together and yet
being individually responsible for their own work.
Mary Ann

Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 13:44:17 -0500
From: Sally Harrison-Pepper <Sallynla @ AOL.COM>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
>Do we ever set an example?
Yes!  Consider co-authored papers and books.  Consider joint research
projects.  Consider collaborative art making endeavers -- esp. in university
theatre productions.  Consider committee work.

Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 15:12:23 -0600
From: Suzanne Wallace <wallaces @ CENTRAL.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
I agree with several of you who have written about the difficulties and
inequities associated with group projects, and I can identify several
additional problems -- such as the scheduling problems of nontraditional
However, I think it is important to note that our faculty (in a business
and econ department) consistently hears from the business members of our
advisory council as well as from potential employers of our graduates
that they value very highly the "group experiences" which our students
have in the classroom.   The current emphasis on TQM and other collaborative
management strategies has enhanced at least the perceived value of group
I do utilize group projects in a number of my courses.  I explain to the
students that there is real value in learning good collaborative
strategies and that most of the learning needs to come through experience
and thus attempt to assure them that benefits will result from the
experience.  I also try to be as honest as possible about the difficulties
involved and encourage the sharing of strategies which are successful
in reducing the extent of the difficulties.
The main point I want to amke is that -- altho grad schools may view all
grades as the student's own work and thus it is possible for group work
to lower one's future prospects -- it is also possible that the lack of
group project experience could lower a student's future prospects in
the job market.
Suzanne Wallace
Central College

Date: Sat, 01 Nov 1997 07:27:38 -0700
From: Celia C Winkler <cwinkler @ SELWAY.UMT.EDU>
Subject: Grading group projects
For all the reasons given, I don't like to assign group grades.  I get
around this by making group work optional, a way of getting out of a test,
and guaranteeing each student a minimum grade of the highest grade they
receive on any exam.  (If a student gets an 18 out of 20 on her best exam,
the least she can receive on the group project is 18 out of 20.)  Because
these are always group presentations for the benefit of the entire class,
I do rely to a large extent on the students' desire to show their best
I will also see if the presentation exceeds this grade.  If I think the
presentation is a 20 pointer, then each student gets the higher grade.  If
it is clear that an individual shines in an otherwise uninspired group, I
will assign an individual grade.  I make this clear to students before
they decide to do a group presentation.  I've never had a problem with
either the grades I assign, or with a lack of interest in volunteering
for a group project.  In a class of 90, participation is usually about
50%.  The problem then becomes finding time in the course to schedule all
the presentations.
Celia Winkler
Department of Sociology
University of Montana
Missoula, MT  59812-1047
Office: (406) 243-5863
Fax:    (406) 243-5951
cwinkler  @  selway.umt.edu

Date: Sat, 01 Nov 1997 11:26:11 -0500
From: "Dr. Irene Devine" <irdevine @ ACS.RYERSON.CA>
Subject: small group discussions
I've been following the discussion on small group classroom
presentations/assignments in use across all disciplines.
I teach in a Business School where most courses use this pedagogical
method for a variety of reasons including that in the workworld,students
will be working in teams, workgroups, departments or other smaller than
organizational size settings.
Business decisions are being made within groups rather than by individuals
acting solely on their own.  There's a growth of professional management
teams in organizations and a movement within the business world towards
more participative management styles.  Group learning via the case
method, subject matter reports, reading reviews, or other types of
presentations give students the opportunity to experience real-world
group dynamics in an organizational context.
That said, successfully developing classroom groups isn't an easy task.
AT the university level, it requires overcoming the students' years of
schooling in a competitive environment to build an effective cooperative
learning environment.  It requires providing assurance and assistance to
the students concerning the activity's goals, the guidelines for the
task, the criteria for evaluation and the means of rewards.  Issues such
as dealing with the 'free rider', matching resources and tasks, creating
an integrated team product, developing trust and a mature group must
become the learning goals for this methodology and the task is not the
focus at the expense of the process.
A common approach to student team project work is to divide students into
teams, explain and assign the project and then wait to evaluate the final
product several weeks or months later.  This approach may unwittingly set
students up to fail.  Faculty who use this approach may believe they are
creating a 'real world' situation, where, when the manager creates a
project team, she or he does not do the work for the team.  In
organizations, however, managers have vested interest in a project's
success and are held accountable for the end-product quality.  Effective
managers do monitor and make strategic interventions as needed in a
project team's process to ensure progress on schedule and to help team
members correct process errors before they seriously jeapordize the
project's outcomes.  As faculty, we need to recognize our
responsibilities as team managers in helping students succeed.
The teaching methods and skills involved in student group learning classes
differ significantly from those used in traditional classrooms.  Both the
role of the student and the teacher changes in radical ways.  This
difference in methods is responsible both for the advantages of learning
groups and for the limitations and difficulties inherent in their use.
Our experience indicates that these limitations can be overcome but if
this is to be accomplished, we can't separate content and skills-both are
an integral part of the learning process.
For information on successful classroom groups, see
Dimock, H.G. and I. Devine(1996).  Managing Dynamic Groups, 3rd edition.
Captus Press Inc., North York, Ontario.
Johnson, D.W. and F. P. Johnson.  Joining Together: Group Theory and
Group Skills, 2nd edition, Prentice-Hall, 1982.
Zander, A. Making Groups Effective. Jossey-Bass, 1982.
Good luck!!
Irene Devine, Ph.D.
School of Administration and Information Management
Ryerson Polytechnic University
350 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario, M5B 2K3
Phone (416) 979 5348; Fax (416) 979 5249
e-mail irdevine  @  acs.ryerson.ca

Date: Sat, 01 Nov 1997 10:56:35 -0600
From: Ruth P Ginzberg <ginzberg @ BELOIT.EDU>
Subject: Grading group projects
I have experimented with a way of grading that I think I like.
I think students (paradoxically) like it somewhat less than I do, because
they frequently complain that it is "too unstructured."  Nevertheless,
I still think it is academically and educationally valuable, and teaches
good planning and self-evaluation skills, and teaches students to take
responsibility for designing their own learning activities and
demonstrations thereof.
(BTW, this is one of those cases in which I'm not at all sure that "high
ratings" for some aspect of a class on teaching evaluations are identical
with high educational value, or "low ratings" are necessarily identical with
low educational value.)
I set out a range of activities and a range of allowable %ages of the
student's grade for each activity, and then have the student determine for
herself (or himself) how she wants her grade to be calculated.  The student
must do this within the first 3 weeks of the class.  For example, one set of
options might look like this:
In-class participation:  (15%-30%)                  ____%
Weekly Response/Reaction Papers (0%-30%)            ____%
5-7 p. papers (0%-50%)  ___ papers   @   ____% each =   ____%
Group Project (5%-25%) (single grade, all gr mbrs)  ____%
15-20 p term paper (0%-40%) (no more than one)      ____%
In Class Exams (2) (10%-50%, total)  ____ % each =  ____%
Weekly Quizzes and/or In-Class Exercises (5%-20%)   ____%
Instructor's Prerogative                              10%
Other (must be approved by instructor in advance)   ____%
   Describe ____________________________________
TOTAL:  (add it up; Must equal exactly 100% !!!)    ____%
As you can see, this creates somewhat of a record-keeping challenge.  I
started doing this sort of thing before I had computer software to keep
track of it for me, for classes averaging about 50 students, and it was a
*nightmare* & I wouldn't do it w/out a computer again, except perhaps
occasionally for very small (seminar-sized) classes!  I now have kludged up
a little database program that does a lot of the record-keeping &
calculations for me, though, and that makes it a lot easier for medium-sized
classes. I still wouldn't do it for a large lecture.
At the beginning of the semester I discuss this thoroughly with the class,
making sure to explain that the idea here is that I know that students'
schedules, comfort levels, personal styles, and academic strengths and
weaknesses, are different, and the idea here is for each student to SHOW ME
THEIR BEST WORK, in the way that they can demonstrate what they are learning
THAT BEST SUITS THEM.  I also urge them to challenge themselves and "assign
themselves" at least one componant of their grade that is NEW to them, or
that is something that they already know they have difficulty doing, but to
assign themselves a relatively small percentage of their total grade from
that componant in order to keep the "pressure to perform" down and to allow
themselves the chance to explore new academic activities and/or develop new
skills.  I note that anything for which they asign themselves 0% of their
total grade, they need not do, and for some activities this is an option,
while for others it is not.  I also urge them to THINK VERY CAREFULLY about
how they are electing to have their work evaluated, and compare that to
their schedule, and also to their own self-knowledge about their strengths
and weaknesses.
For example, in the above example, I would point out that it WOULD be
POSSIBLE for a student to assign themself 50% of their grade from a single 5
page paper.  They might think that this will make the class "easier" or
"less work" than some other possible choices.  But if they elect that
particular option, they'd better be DAMN sure that they can (and DO) write
one HELL of a Knock-My-Sox-Off 5 page paper, because they are putting an
awfully lot of "eggs" in a single "basket" that way, and if they blow that
single little paper (with that weight assigned to it) they could very easily
"blow" an otherwise excellent course grade.  I also note (e.g.) that if they
assign themselves a large percentage of their course grade from some number
of papers (of various sorts), they need to take responsibility for MAKING
THEIR OWN DUE DATES and KEEPING them, because (note again) there are *no*
class-wide "due dates" for papers, and I will not remind or enforce any such
"due dates" (or "assign" paper topics even) ... so it is entirely POSSIBLE
(and it HAS HAPPENED) that a student could assign herself a large portion of
her grade from writing papers and get to the last week of class (when she is
swamped with other work as well) only to realize that she still needs to
produce 3 or 4 papers for this class, and that more than half of her course
grade rests upon how well she does that.  I also note that (e.g.) although
it wuld be POSSIBLE for a student to assign herself 1/2 of her total course
grade from in-class exams alone, it would be really FOOLISH to do so if
(e.g.) she already knows about herself that she suffers from severe test
anxiety and tends to do very poorly on in-class exams.  So while everyone
must take exams (in this example, though not in most of my real classes; I
rarely give exams, actually), the student who has real trouble taking exams
might be wise to assign herself the minimum total percentage of her grade
based on in-class exams, and to use this opportunity to learn how to manage
her test anxiety in a low-stress exam context.  Etc., etc., etc.
As I said, I find that a lot of students don't like having to decide these
sorts of things for themselves (perhaps simply making these decisions for
oneself about oneself is, itself, stressful, especially when it is an
unfamiliar thing to have to do), and I receive frequent complaints that it
is "too unstructured."  But I still firmly believe that it is only as
"unstructured" as the individual student elects to make it -- and a student
who needs more structure can use the opportunity to learn to create that
structure for herself (assign herself "strict due dates", etc.), while the
student who needs less structure can also have that -- and they can BOTH
have what they need even while sitting next to one another in the same
class, in the same semester.
Ruth Ginzberg
Women's Studies
Beloit College

Date: Sat, 01 Nov 1997 12:44:07 -0500
Subject: Grading Group Projects
I also use group projects in my classes and give the same feedback about
the demands of the business world to my students as part of the rationale.
At Notre Dame ws also have a high proportion of working and non-traditional
students.  One way I have dealt with the difficulty of finding time outside
of class for projects is to use available times for meeting as a way of
forming groups  on the first day of class.  After dividning students into
groups of 5 or 6 , each  tries to come up with a meeting time.  We shuffle
members until each group has agreed on one hour outside of class time in
which everyone can meet.  This process has eliminated a major excues for
lack of participation.
    I also have each group agreee on a set of group norms for group
functioning on that first day.  The group members can them be held accountable
to standards of their own making .    All members evaluate each other (including
 self) at mid-term and at the end of the course. If members agree that
an individual has not pulled her weight, we agree on a reduction in the
grade of that person.  I very rarely have to do that.
Sally Wall

Date: Sun, 02 Nov 1997 14:42:11 -0500
From: Lillie Sharon Ransom <lsransom @ WAM.UMD.EDU>
Subject: Grading Group Projects
Thank you all for your feedback, perceptions, methods, and past
experiences with Group Projects.  It has been quite helpful, and
reinforces my pleasure at being part of this list.
The feedback has reinforced my decision to keep group activity as a small
portion of a student's grade (15%) whenever I include it; and since for
some reason I didn't explicitly say on the syllabus this semester (as I
usually do) that ALL students earn the same grade, and I haven't passed
the papers back yet, I'm going to issue a self-evaluation form and give
each student an opportunity to grade other group members and somehow
factor that in to the overall grade for the assignment.  This seems fairer
to all the students, and incorporates several of your suggestions and
hearfelt concerns about one person carrying all or most of the weight...or
stronger students being penalized by others' more mediocre work..
Thanks again,
Lillie S. Ransom, Ph.D.
Affiliate Faculty
Women's Studies Department and Program
University of Maryland
(301) 314-7682

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