Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Developing Student Skills Through Supervised Group Projects
Originator Professor Colin Ballantyne
Department Department of Geography, University of St. Andrews, KY16 9ST
Tel. +44 (0)1334 463907
Fax. +44 (0)1334 463949

This initiative focused around replacement of traditional tutorials for first-year students with group projects designed to stimulate enthusiasm, develop teamwork and organisational skills, and involve collective comment, discussion and criticism in addition to more traditional essay-writing skills. Students signed up for particular projects in groups of six, and over a 10-week period worked on a collective project. In the first semester, this involves a group report to which all students contribute one 1000-word chapter, knitted together with a collective introduction, cross-referencing, conclusion and consolidated reference list. In the second semester, the group output is a poster presentation involving the analysis and depiction of appropriate raw data.

For both projects, each group must give an oral presentation of their collective work to a peer group and staff. The members of the peer group (who have completed an entirely different project) are invited to comment on the content and presentation. In the first semester project such commentary is heuristic: assessment is based entirely on the written report, with two-thirds of the assessment being based on individual (chapter) contributions and one-third on the collective report. In the second semester, however, peer-group comments are taken into account by staff, who assess both the quality of the poster and its oral presentation.

In each semester, the group work accounts for one-third of total assessment, the remainder being through conventional essays, practical and field classes, and a multiple-mode examination.


Group work
Peer assessment
Poster presentation

This abstract has been reproduced with the kind permission of the ASSHE Project, which was undertaken under the auspices of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals and with the financial support of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

Hounsell, D., McCulloch, M. and Scott, M. (Editors) The ASSHE Inventory: Changing Assessment Practices in Scottish Higher Education, (The University of Edinburgh & Napier University), p. 97
Database entry ref. 307

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