We can all relate to a situation when a teacher has uttered those alarming six words “This will be a group project!”. Ever wondered the reason for that apprehensive reaction? Well there seems to be a few. One of the most alarming concerns among students, when it relates to group work, includes conflict amongst group members. Students have also noted their frustration regarding the decision-making process and elaborate that, when in groups, this process becomes time-consuming. However, the most commonly noted disadvantages of group work includes students noticing that it is difficult to assess the relative levels of their individual contribution . This resonates as a noteworthy concern, as oftentimes, within the dynamics of a group, looms a social loafer otherwise known as a ‘free-rider’.
As students in business schools are required to complete numerous group assignments, this article aims to shed some light on how teachers could track students' individual efforts and allocate grades fairly through active learning and course design.
“ The most commonly noted disadvantage of group work includes the difficulty of assessing the levels of group members individual contribution.”
The need for collaborative group work in business schools is unquestionable. The main aim of implementing group work includes preparing business students for their future work environments . These future work environments usually require employees to possess skills such as strong communication and social abilities. This can be useful in efficient and effective discussions with team members as well as contribute to making a team more cohesive. Which in turn can lead to a refined understanding of complex tasks as well as to a timely completion of tasks .
“ Communication and social skills in a group can lead to a refined understanding of complex tasks and a timely completion of tasks .”
Another skill deemed vital in business schools takes the form of teamwork, which aids in coherent team management . Additionally, as a prospective business executive, students would be required to give and receive constructive feedback, which can also be achieved through collaborative group work. Collaborative group work allows business students to sharpen their skills practically . Lastly, group work prepares students to take individual and group accountability and responsibility. Being that group work is so pertinent to the success of business students, how have business schools been implementing it until now?
Traditionally, business schools have known to adopt the ‘teacher knows best’ way of group assessment in which the teacher holds the reins of power in the assessment process. This commonly used method of assessment includes the teacher allocating a shared group grade based on the end result of the project. This manner of grading is deemed to be problematic for two reasons . Firstly, in teacher-only assessments it is difficult to assess the level of individual contribution. This is associated with the second problem which includes allowing students that put in minimal effort, known as ‘free-riders’, to benefit from the same grade that is allocated to the rest of the group members who might have put in a bit more effort .
FeedbackFruits offers a solution to both problems with a tool called Group Member Evaluation. This tool facilitates teamwork dynamics, by allowing students to evaluate each other’s contributions anonymously against a set of criteria set by the teacher. The teachers oversee the feedback being given and intervene when needed. This tool also allows group grades to be personalized based on individual contributions. It does this through an algorithm that compares ratings each student receives with the average of the group. Based on this ratio, a grade is calculated which reflects their individual contribution. By doing this, overachievers are rewarded and underachievers penalized.
“ By doing this, overachievers are rewarded and underachievers are penalized. ”
By quantifying the value to individual contribution of group members this way, free-riding is eliminated. Moreover, supplementing group member evaluation with self-assessment can help students spot discrepancies between how they view their own efforts and how they are perceived by others. Which further improves their performance in future group projects. In this sense, the tool is greatly valuable for business schools as students will acquire the skill of taking accountability in teams, that as mentioned prior, is a noteworthy skill to possess as business executives.
Teamwork should be looked forward to and not feared by students. The Group Member Evaluation tool not only offers fair and accurate assessment for group work but additionally allows students to be active and engaged participants in the learning process. This pedagogy allows students to gain a deeper grasp of fundamental concepts while also allowing them to cultivate skills which they will eventually utilize in the workplace and in life.
 LaBeouf, J. P., Griffith, J. C., & Roberts, D. L. (2016). Faculty and Student Issues with Group Work: What is Problematic with College Group Assignments and Why?. Journal of Education and Human Development, 5 (1). Source
 Gueldenzoph, L.E & May, G.L. (2002). Collaborative Peer Evaluation: Best Practices for Group Member Assessments. Business Communication Quarterly, Volume 65, Number 1, March 2002, pages 9-20 2002 by the Association for Business Communication
 Weldy, T., & Turnipseed, D. (2010). Assessing and Improving Learning in Business Schools: Direct and Indirect Measures of Learning. Journal Of Education For Business, 85(5), 268-273. Source
 Verheijen, A. (2020). Eliminating free-riding in group work. Source