Group Work

Sample Cases from Dublin Institute of Technology

See some samples cases for this assessment method in the table below or browse the full set of cases in the assessment toolkit.

Assessment MethodLecturerAssociated Programme(s)NFQ LevelYear
Problem Based Learning Robert Howard Physics Programmes Level 8 Year 2
Group Assignment Andrea Curley BSc Computing Level 8 Year 2
Community Learning Project Catherine Gorman BSc Tourism Marketing
BSc Tourism Management
Level 8 Years 1-2
Facilitated self-assessment and peer-assessment of performance Mary Lennon Bachelor of Music Level 8 Years 1-2
Class presentation Lorraine O'Connell Bachelor of Music
Bachelor of Music Education
Level 8 Years 1-2
Practical project Phil Nicholl BSc Nutraceuticals in Health and Nutrition Level 8 Years 2-3
Blogs for work placement assessment Julie Dunne and Sinead Ryan Higher Certificate in Pharmacy Technician Studies
BSc Pharmaceutical Healthcare
Level 8 Years 2, 4
Video Catherine Barry Ryan BSc Nutraceuticals in Health and Nutrition
BSc Food Innovation
Higher Certificate in Pharmacy Technician Studies
Level 6, 8 Years 2, 3
Group project John O'Connor BA Fine Art
BA Visual Communications
BA Interior Design and Furniture
BA Visual and Critical Studies
Level 8 Years 1-3
Project using PBL Ita Coghlan BA Leisure Management Level 7 Year 3
Wikis Theresa Ryan BA Event Management Level 7 Year 3
Oral Carmel O’Reilly Hospitality Management and Tourism Programmes
Language Programmes
Level 7, 8 All Years
Wikis Claire McDonnell BSc Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences Level 7 Year 3
Digital Marketing Plan Mary Lawlor Bachelor of Business Studies Level 8 Year 3

[Return to the Assessment Toolkit]


Extraordinary achievement comes more often from cooperative groups than from isolated individuals competing with each other or working alone’ (Johnson and Johnson, 2004)

Two heads are better than one!

Group learning or team learning can take many forms, although the most common involve either collaborative or cooperative learning.

Cooperative learning is defined by a set of processes which help people interact together in order to accomplish a specific goal or develop an end product which is usually content specific. It is often quite teacher directed or centred. Students can work on individual tasks, coming together at the end to complete the product and create a final product which has a common voice.

Collaborative learning suggests students work together to solve problems and create knowledge through discourse with each-other and the tutor (social constructivism). Collaborative learning suggests students employ and develop higher order thinking skills than cooperative learning. The individual contribution may not be as easily determined.

Guidelines for when to use group work

  1. Instructional goals indicate their use
  2. Limited materials
  3. Task is complex
  4. New material is being learned
  5. Multiple perspectives are being studied
  6. Creativity is required
  7. Task requires problem solving
  8. There are divisible responsibilities

The power of group learning

Group work provides students with opportunity to work together in a safe environment, and develop the skills they need for team work in a professional environment. Students can network, exchange ideas and information, and value the diverse opinions of others, leading to improved cognitive and academic outcomes.

The scope and power of assessment can be enlarged using groups

  1. Increase a student’s achievement through learning how to assess their own work and that of their peers, and thus how to improve their own submissions.
  2. Can conduct more frequent assessments if students assess each other’s work.
  3. Assess a wider variety of outcomes as group work can make certain skills more overt e.g. problem solving, reasoning, social skills and work habits.
  4. Allows self and peer assessment as well as teacher assessment, which can reduce bias associated with teacher only assessment
  5. Provide academic and social support to students when teacher time is limited
  6. Create opportunities to assess certain types of projects not possible through individual only endeavours (e.g dramatic or creative projects)

Assessment of group work

Assessment is a measure of the quality or quantity of change brought about by learning. In group work, the assessment may be of the individual change, or the group change. Furthermore, the individual change may be determined by the tutor, but also by the individual (self-assessment) and the other students in the group (peer-assessment). It is recommended that all forms of assessment are necessary for maximum learning of each individual (Johnson and Johnson, 2004).

There are eight steps in using learning groups for assessment purposes

Step 1: Teachers should recognise the power of groups

Step 2: The groups need to be correctly set up and structured to ensure they are cooperative

How to ensure groups will work cooperatively? PIGS FACE

  • Positive Interdependence - the success of the group depends on the success of each member. Therefore, it is vital that each member participates.
  • Individual Accountability- each student is responsible for learning the material, complete assignments, etc. One person cannot sit back and let others do the work. Teachers can ensure accountability by giving each member a test, oral questions, etc
  • Group Processing- group members reflect on how well they work together or have accomplished their task and teachers give feedback.
  • Social Skills- the interpersonal and communication skills necessary for effective group instruction. One of the most critical elements is that students must be taught proper social skills of working in groups.
  • FACE to-face interaction – students interact within one another in close proximity.

Types of groups? Formal groups can be set up for a single piece of work, or base groups may be set up in which students work together for a semester, year or entire course. These base groups may be more social and supportive, but can also be used in modules where group assessment is prescribed.

Assigning students to groups? Advice on how to assign students to groups varies. Usually allowing students to self-select is not recommended. Either random selection, or groups containing a range of abilities is more desirable. Ability can be determined by a pre-test. Another suggestion is to ask students to pick three students they would like to work with. This identifies isolated students, who can then be assigned to a supportive group. A novel approach may also to assign all ‘free-loaders’ to a group. This can force poorly motivated students into action!

Step 3: An assessment plan should be devised

  1. Will the individual or group be assessed, or both?
  2. What outcomes are being assessed? Academic learning; Reasoning; Skills and Competencies; Attitudes; Work habits
  3. What assessment methods will be used? A combination of many different types of assessment may be used (tests, presentations, observations, portfolios etc)

Step 4: Use groups to help in individual assessments

Purpose of group cooperative learning is to make the individual student stronger in his/her own right. Need to set goals for individuals: START (Specific Track-able Achievable Relevant Transferable). Tests, observations, questionnaires and interviews can all be useful for individual assessment.

Step 5: Assess groups as a whole

Typically, the product of the group work (e.g. project, scientific experiment, production, performance) is assessed as a whole and each member of the group is awarded the group mark.

Step 6: Use peer assessments

Peer assessment can provide very complete accurate and helpful assessment and feedback, and is useful to reduce teacher bias in the individual assessment of collaborative learning. Peer assessment forms can be used. The online Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness ( is a useful online tool to manage peer assessment. CATME is a simple, one-item, behaviorally anchored peer-evaluation scale which has been developed by a diverse team of experts in group learning.

Step 7: Use self-assessments

Self-assessment is important for self-awareness, self-regulation, self monitoring, and social sensitivity. Learning logs can be useful for students to gather information about their learning. Rubrics are useful to help students to self-assess. The online Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness ( allows self-assessment as well as peer-assessment.

Step 8: Create group situations where targeted skills and competencies may be assessed.

Role-playing, simulations and games. Students participate in role-plays or simulations, reflect on the experience, relate it to the academic material being studied, and then evaluate how effective their performance was. Problem based Learning is ideal as a platform to create such group situations.


  • Assessing Students in Groups: Promoting Group Responsibility and Individual Accountability, David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, SAGE Publications, 2004
  • Cooperative Learning in the Classroom: Putting it Into Practice, Wendy Jolliffe, SAGE Publications, 2007
  • Savin-Baden, M and Howell Major, C. (2000) Foundations of Problem Based Learning, Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.
  • Biggs, J and Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: Open University Press/McGraw Hill

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