Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Using Peer and Self Assessment for Assessing the Contribution of Individuals to a Group Project
Originator Mick Healey
Department GEMRU, Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ
Tel. +44 (0)1242 532971
Fax +44 (0)1242 543283

Group projects are often criticised by both staff and students because frequently when they are assessed team members are credited with identical marks. The different techniques for identifying the contribution of individuals in project work can be grouped into two basic types. One consists of sharing a pool of marks between team members, the other entails weighting the group mark differently between individuals. Both techniques involve members of the group assessing the relative contribution of team members to the project. Relatively little empirical work has been published which compares these different techniques (Healey, 1993). Moreover, the techniques have mainly been applied using only peer group assessment methods and have excluded a self-assessment component. In this study the two techniques were compared in assessing an eight week group project for final year geography students at Coventry University. There were 20 groups each with three to four students. The group projects were double marked by the course tutors and then the individual marks were calculated using the two techniques.

Modified pool of marks

In the previous year we had used a variant of the method described by Gibbs et al (1986) in which each student was allowed to reallocate the group mark given by the tutor by up to 20 marks in either direction with the proviso that the sum of the adjusted marks added to zero (Healey et al., 1994). However, we found that the students were reluctant to discriminate widely between team members, except where one or two had contributed relatively little. Eight out of 13 groups gave all members of their group the same mark. Many students felt uncomfortable in being asked to take away and add marks to their colleagues and themselves in a very transparent manner. To try to reduce these limitations in the following year the students were strongly encouraged not to submit forms in which all team members were given the same marks. Furthermore, to avoid students directly allocating negative marks, they were asked to allocate only positive points and it was left to the tutor to convert these into adjusted marks (Appendix 1).

Individual weighting factor

The modified pool of marks technique does not, however, overcome a fundamental weakness of the procedure, namely that the students have to allocate a fixed pool of marks or points. An alternative technique is to allow the students to allocate marks freely and then calculate an individual weighting factor based on the ratio between the individual score and the average score for all members of the group. This has the advantage of avoiding putting students in the situation where for every additional mark they give to one individual they have to take a mark off another individual. A variant on the technique used by Conway et al (1993) was employed (Appendix 2). This technique awards the group mark to a student who makes an average contribution. Those who make greater (or lesser) contributions receive more (or less) than the original group mark. The method of calculation is described in Appendix 3.



The assessment of the contribution of individuals to group projects is one area of the curriculum in which peer and self assessment are particularly appropriate, because team members are in the best position to judge the quality and effectiveness of the contribution each has made to the project. The use of peer and self assessment techniques help to develop skills of responsibility, autonomy, judgement and self awareness. In this study the individually weighted group mark technique was more effective at distinguishing the contribution of individuals to a group project than the pool of marks technique. The resulting marks gave a wider spread, which was similar to that obtained in individually marked coursework (although the average mark was higher, which is common in group work). The inclusion of a self assessment component raised the mark an individual would have received more often than it lowered it, but the impact was usually small and was offset by the advantage of the feeling of 'fair play' it engendered among many of the students.

Relevant references:


Group projects
Peer assessment
Self assessment

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Page updated 2 October 1999
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