Group projects should yield individual grades; group grades are unrepresentative

The blessing and curse that are group projects is one familiar to every Palo Alto High School student; on one hand the work is divided, but on the other, the division of labor is rarely equal. This persistent nature of group projects has long been an issue in terms of its reflection in the grade book. In theory the work would be divided equally among members, so naturally an overall group grade would be fitting. Unfortunately, due to the nature of group projects, a more appropriate measurement of participation would be an individual grade.

Individual grades for group assignments would ensure each member’s work is appropriately recognized. Rather than the traditional group grade, an individual grade would not only reflect the end quality of the project, but also the student’s contributions or lack thereof.

The problem this presents to teachers is finding an accurate way to judge individual participation. Administering a post-project evaluation would create an arena for students to self-report, whether it be as a written reflection, a survey or a delegation of points.

Math teacher Deanna Chute is a teacher who has adopted one such method. Grading the project as a whole, she then multiplies the points earned by the group by the number of group members and allows members to distribute the points amongst themselves.

“Actually, the group is essentially giving [the individual grade]. I’m giving a grade for the product that I have,” Chute said. “I think it’s a nice compromise. They get a group grade, but within that can reallocated to better reflect how the group dynamic functioned.”

Chute notes that, nonetheless, most groups will divide the points equally, but this system allows for reallotment when necessary.

“I wanted there to be some room for them to take some ownership for what happened,” Chute said. “The group can choose to give members of their own group more or less points depending on what they did or didn’t contribute.”

While this is not always the case, when reallotment of points seems necessary, Chute further investigates the claims. Applying this more holistic group grading system will require some legwork by teachers in order to substantiate claims; however, a correct measurement of a student’s effort is well worth the minimal effort this would entail.

Providing an individual grade for these kinds of assignments would not only more accurately reflect the work done by each student, but would also be a motivator to divide the work more equally initially.

Individual grades would thus teach better collaborative work habits. Being able to work well in a group is a crucial life skill, and is a part of the justification for group projects. By grading this dynamic element of the project, teachers would be encouraging these skills in addition to providing a more reflective grade.