grading group projects

George F Edick edickg at
Mon May 4 14:32:43 EST 1998


In our introductory labs, we have each group submit a written,
joint-evaluation whereby the group members decide what percentage of the
group grade each member should receive. In most cases, where the group
functions well, the consensus is that each member should receive 100% of the
group grade. Fine. In some cases, where a slacker is lurking within a group,
the group may decide that everyone deserves 100% of the grade while the
slacker should get, say, only 85% of the group grade. If the alledged
slacker disagrees, he/she can sit down with the group and instructor where
all the cards are put on the table and a discussion tries to sort things
out. After hearing all the facts, the instructor has the final say.

Until today, I let groups in my senior-level labs work things out themselves
- until a messey grey-area problem arose today which called for a judgement
call on my part. Based on today's experience, I think I will institute a
policy in our lab courses whereby a group will write up a contract of who
will do what during the course of a project. Each group member and the
instructor will sign the thing. My hope is that we will be able to
eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the finger pointing at the 11th hour
of stuff not getting done. We'll see.


>I just finished teaching Plant Physiology (senior undergraduate level) and,
>as always, I had them do a lengthy independent investigation in the lab.
>Most groups had 3 students but one had 5.  In the past I gave each group
>member the same grade (worth ~15% of the final grade) and let them work out
>for themselves how to deal with group members that don't pull their weight.
>This semester I had more complaints than usual, especially in the group of
>5 (I won't make that mistake again!).  In the future I may want to try
>using some form of evaluation in which some of the grade will be based on
>effort.  How do others deal with this problem?  If you have a system that
>works would you mind sharing it?

George Edick                                  E-mail:  edickg at
Department of Biology                         Phone:   518-276-8431
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute              Fax:     518-276-2344
Troy, NY  12180

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