The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at EMU


Jenny Kindred wrestles in this chapter with a dilemma many of us have faced: how to grade group assignments. I suspect many people reading this have a memory of getting a lower grade than we deserved in a group project because a fellow group member didn’t pull his or her weight. My experience with this has always made me shy away from giving group grades. And yet, others convincingly argue that group grades are required in order to build a cohesive group rather than a collection of individuals who happen to be working on the same project. Since group work is increasingly used in higher education, more and more of us are struggling to figure out how to grade these kinds of assignments.

Jenny’s problem is exacerbated here since the group assignments in question arise in a Small Group Communication class, where the class spends time studying how groups succeed and fail. Jenny chose to use individual-only grades in her class, reflecting the concern about potentially downgrading students due to factors outside their control (such as the work of their classmates). But, rather than just making this decision, Jenny has engaged in rigorous analysis of this decision, and then uses a wide variety of evidence (including journals and videotapes of group meetings) to assess the quality of the group work she saw. I particularly like the conclusion of the chapter, in which Jenny attempts to “complete the circle” as she discusses how what she has learned from this investigation will change the way she teachers the course in the future.