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Validity of Group Marks as a Proxy for Individual Learning in E-Learning Settings June 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 6:52 pm
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Working together in groups in college can be done for short-term assignments that can take a week up to a semester long project. Measuring group learning has raised some issues on the ability to assess the learning from the group work and the ability to measure the learning on the individual’s basis.  Often the group product results in the grade given to all group members.  The mark is the indicator that should reflect attaining learning objectives.  However, it may not always accurately reflect that.  The product may mean the learning objects set forth, however, one individual may have contributed greatly, where another may have given next to nothing.   


I have worked in groups both in a traditional classroom setting and via the e-learning environment.  In a traditional setting, this may be a little easier to organize.  We were in class together at the same time, we were given class time to discuss the project and work on pulling it together.  Working in the e-learning environment was a bit more difficult to organize because everyone worked at their own pace, even as far as contribution.  Assessment of work for the face-to-face class consisted of one group grade.  Assessment of work from the e-learning course consisted of a group project grade and an individual grade.  In both of my shared experiences, every individual contributed to the project equally. 


I may be making assumptions, not having had the opportunity to see the course through the instructor’s platform, but I would assume that monitoring the group (or cooperative learning) may be a little easier to assess the learning based on activity.  The example I used of my e-learning class’s group project, the instructor divided us into the groups he wanted us in, and a discussion board was created for each group.  In addition to our group discussion, we also posted our individual contribution to the project here for the others to review and comment on.  


Recently, my daughter’s college roommate was involved in a group project.  There were 3 students in each group.  On student contributed nothing to the project or even participated in the group meetings.  The other two individuals planned and completed the entire project, yet the same grade was given to the three of them.  It’s not to say that the individual who did not contribute did not know the material, but the grade they received was not an assessment of the learning objectives they knew – rather how the project met the learning objectives.


Lajbcygier and Spratt describe a group project of 66 students.  The project was carried out through a blended learning environment that went through almost half the semester.  The majority of the groups consisted of 10 students.  Students were assessed in the following manner:


  • Students separately rated each of their group peers on their contributions to the group.  It was a 5-point scale that included prompts such as, “participated consistently and reliably; usually cooperative; typically showed genuine interest and enthusiasm.” (p. 141)


  • Another peer assessment was done based not on the participation and attitude toward the project, but on the knowledge and understanding of the topic material.  Students were reminded of the learning objectives and asked how they felt their peers met those objectives.


  • The final assessment had learners make a relative judgement of the influence of the group to their topic learning.  Assessment questions included, “”discussion with the group often led directly to me learning new things, or to correcting inaccuracies; learning of project content was influenced in roughly equivalent proportions by project discussions as by my own personal study and reading.”


The student assessments were distributed after the project was complete, but before the final grade was given.  They were informed that their responses to the three assessments would be used to compare different approaches to modifying the marks that individual students might receive for group project work.  After the study was complete, they found that project outcome marks did not reflect an aggregate of within-group individual attainment.  Contributions did not relate to within group variation in individual attainment.  They tested two alternatives, individual students’ ratings for influence on their peers’ learning and individual students’ personal perceptions of the influence of the group experience on their related topic learning.  Neither of these alternatives that were evaluated were found to relate to individual learning.




Lajbcygier, P. and Spratt, C.  The Validity of Group Marks as a Proxy for Individual Learning in E-Learning Settings.  (2009)  E-Learning Technologies and Evidence-Based Assessment Approaches. Information Science Reference.  (136 – 150)


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