Group work: why we need a new grading system

We've all been there: you're part of a group where some members are putting in more effort than others. Holly Jenson argues that the university should implement a new grading system to make things a bit fairer

“Group work”: the words that make every student cringe as they rifle through their new module handbook. Collectively, we know that the weeks leading up to this assignment will be filled with dread, stress and general lack of motivation. It upsets us all that group members receive the same mark, even when some don’t put in the time. If I had my way, I would eliminate it completely from all syllabuses, but many lecturers still consider it an activity which encourages ‘team building’ and provides valuable life skills.

As we’ll never be able to fully rid of group work, a great way we could improve it would be to introduce a system where we can grade our group members. If you’ve ever been any of these people, I’m sure you’ll agree with me…

The Organised One: You’ve done all the reading and turn up to the meeting expecting the same from the rest of the group. In reality no one else has done it and they spend the rest of the session piggybacking off the information you have learned.

“Introducing a system where you can mark your group members on effort would mean that everyone in the group would earn their mark fairly”

The Wordsmith: When writing the group essay, everyone else claims to be ‘awful at grammar’ and ‘terrible at spelling’, it really is easier if you just write the whole thing up while everyone else flicks through Instagram.

The One With The Printer: You made the mistake early on in saying you have our own printer at home. As this stops everyone else paying for ink, it is your responsibility to print the meeting minutes, the essay, the presentation, the handouts, the declaration forms, and someone’s coursework that ‘accidentally’ got sent to you with all the group work files.

“The ‘Busy’ One… Everyone hates you”

The ‘Techy’: You let slip that you took a computer science module as a subsid and know how to do nice slide transitions, so now the group is convinced that you should be in charge of the PowerPoint because of your superior technological knowledge. You collect and edit everyone’s work to fit the presentation, and spend hours perfecting the transitions for each slide.

The ‘Busy’ One: You miss every meeting because you had a ‘late night writing up coursework’, when everyone saw you at Crisis on your Snapchat. You send in your work the day before the presentation and arrive ten minutes late to the student-led seminar, sending the rest of the group into meltdown as they rearrange the schedule. Everyone hates you.

Introducing a system where you can mark your group members on effort would mean that everyone in the group would earn their mark fairly. I’m sure The ‘Busy’ One would make more of an effort to turn up and no one would be able to get away with leaving all of the jobs to one person. Members who didn’t do any research or any of the writing would receive a lower effort grade than those who worked hard, which markers would take into account when giving out individual grades. With this system, maybe group work wouldn’t feel like such a drag!

Holly Jenson

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