The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

The advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to group assessment are discussed in Race (2000). The argument for using group work in assessment is that it will reward achievements that are not adequately recognised in individual forms of assessment (for example, in contributions to joint presentations, social skills in group membership and reflection on peer activity). Presentations of group work give good opportunities for the assessment of oral skills, which are particularly important for employability.

Oral assessment does, however, create problems in terms of the time taken up by requiring an audience (typically of students and staff) and assessment reliability (Adnett, 2000). The first of these problems might be addressed by making the critical review of peers' presentations also part of the assessment process. Students will learn more from the contributions of others if they feel motivated to engage critically with the content of what is being presented. The second problem may be addressed through sharing criteria for the oral assessment with the students in advance of the presentation (Davies, 2000).

A form of assessment, relevant for group work and with direct applicability to concepts of deeper learning, is the reflective log or report (see section 5.3 for further reading). There is no single convention about log structure. As with other written submissions, the criteria for assessment should be devised as appropriate to the aims of the work. Given the less common nature of this type of assessment and the variety of possible objectives, it is critical that the assessment criteria are made clear to students. Reflective logs can be used for purposes including:

  • assessment of other group members by the use of a standardised peer assessment format;
  • self-assessment, where students evaluate their own performance against targets;
  • tutor assessment of the depth of understanding and involvement of the student (Habeshaw et al. (1993, p. 85) remind us that criteria can include 'originality, commitment, skills of observation, analysis and synthesis, sensitivity, self-knowledge etc.');
  • providing a back-up to other assessment systems (that is, in cases of dispute or ambiguity, the log can be used as a supportive document).