On the surface, group projects seem like a great idea. They provide an opportunity for students to work together and prepare for “real-world” experiences and result in fewer projects for teachers to grade. Though well intentioned, group projects are often misguided, as the current one-grade-fits-all assessment (either loved or feared by students) inevitably results in an unequal distribution of work. Maroon believes that a more comprehensive assessment of the group’s cooperation is needed to put the real team effort back into group projects.
The group project horror story has become an all-too-common tale at SHS with more or less the same central theme: one or more students become overburdened with the majority of the workload while other students slack off and contribute little to the project. Because the group often shares a grade, this motivates the more diligent member(s) to do all of the work while others sit on the sidelines in the knowledge that they will all receive the same grade.
Perhaps this group grade is supposed to be the real lesson, teaching students that life is not fair and that not everybody does his fair share. Of course, this could not have been the original intent of the group project. In order to get back on the right track, teachers must either rely less on group work or, better yet, change their current assessment methods.
For group projects to prove beneficial to all students, the assessment of the project, be it a presentation or diorama, must consider the division of the work and the cooperative efforts. It is up to the teacher to decide the form of assessment, which could be a written survey, a formal meeting, or some other evaluation. Whatever the method, it should take into consideration the group’s meetings and each member’s contribution. If clearly lopsided efforts are evident, all group members should be graded individually on the basis of their contributions.
It is clear that teachers need a better way to evaluate the contributions of each member to the finished project in order to give students the grades they truly deserve. □