Designing and assessing group assignments

Group assignments are a valuable addition to students’ individual learning process. Group assignments do more than just challenging students to use their academic skills. They also need to use social skills to ensure a positive group dynamic and to achieve collective (learning) objectives.

Added value of a group assignment

Group work appeals to students’ independence and stimulates diverse skills such as giving feedback, discussing with group members and planning collective work. Furthermore, it offers students the chance to work on societal issues that are too complex on an individual level. 

Also, as a lecturer you don’t always have enough time to individually guide and assess every student. By having students work in groups to finish assignments, guidance and assessing will take less time.

Designing a group assignment

The art of a good group assignment is assuring there will be cooperation.When cooperation is not necessary for an assignment to succeed, the risk exists that students divide the group assignment into parts they individually work on. They then learn little from the parts they didn’t work on. Another characteristic of a good group assignment is that all group members deliver an equal contribution. By keeping this in mind during the design process you can prevent piggyback behaviour.

Group assignments can be designed in such a way that everyone partakes actively and achieves their learning objectives. You can, for example, do this by:

  • Making the content of the assignment complex. Choose a theme or issue that has to be tackled from multiple angles to ensure a good result. This way students will need to adopt, describe and integrate different points of view and it makes the assignment big and versatile enough for all group members to contribute.
  • Asking students to make a division of roles. Define roles students can assume in the group. Think of, for example, a chairman/chairwoman, planner or contact for the lecturer. Next, let them divide these roles. In the final report students can write about how they experienced their role.
  • Setting requirements for individual contributions. Describe what exactly is expected of students in the group work and in the guidance and assessment, discuss the individual contribution that a student has made.

Assessing group work

Assessing group assignments requires lecturers to be extra attentive to ensure the assessment matches students’ efforts. A frequent issue is students feeling like they have done more work than other group members and that they aren’t rewarded for this. There is also the risk of ‘piggyback behaviour’ and that, based on the group product, you give an assessment that does not match students’ individual achievements. That is why it is important you think carefully beforehand about how to assess, ensure an individual component and communicate clearly to your students.

7 ways to assess

With a group assignment, you can assess the whole group or each student individually. Giving points for participation and a larger input is often difficult, because you as a lecturer do not have a clear view of the group process. Putting students in charge of assessing each group member’s contribution requires clear assessment criteria and trust in students to be able to reliably assess their fellow group members. You can design the assessment of group work in the following ways:

  • Every group member gets the same grade.
  • You decide the final grade based on the group product and an individual product.
  • You decide the final grade based on the group product and an individual final exam.
  • You decide the final grade based on the group product and each group member’s individual contribution.
  • Every group member gets the same grade, but they can award 1 bonus point to a minority of the group members that delivered a higher contribution.
  • Every group member gets the same grade, but you can award 1 bonus point to a group member that delivered a higher contribution.
  • The group decides how the points are distributed to each group member.


Do you have any questions or do you need more information? The Teaching Information Point of your faculty will be happy to assist you.