Publications & Resources

Group Collaboration in Assessment: Competing Objectives, Processes, and Outcomes

Aug 1994

Noreen Webb

Learning from other students, developing interpersonal skills, and maximizing collaborative performance, are three primary goals of small group collaboration. But according to Noreen Webb in Group Collaboration in Assessment: Competing Objectives, Processes, and Outcomes, group assessment may or may not be an effective strategy for measuring such goals. “There may be an appropriate place for collaborative group work in educational assessment,” asserts Webb. “Most importantly,” she adds, “how group work is used in an assessment should coincide with the purpose of an assessment.” Webb’s own research and that of others strongly suggests that the purposes must be clearly understood from the start of a group assessment project. Measuring individual student learning versus group productivity, for example, calls for differences in the assessments. If the purpose is to measure individual achievement, suggests Webb, then the instructions might be worded to encourage individual effort. A Connecticut assessment, for example, told students that “each person should be able to explain fully the conclusions reached by the group” and should be prepared to give an oral presentation on their group’s experiment. Thus, students expected that they would be held accountable individually. But if the assessment purpose is different, so too should be the focus, says Webb. She cites group productivity as one example: “Assessment focusing on group productivity,” says Webb, “would give a group a task to complete, and evaluation would focus on the completed task, not on individual students’ contributions to completing the task.” Webb says that teachers need to prepare students for group assessment. Small group collaboration can help students to develop valuable communications skills and give them a better “understanding of what kinds of group process help them learn as individuals and what kinds of processes help maximize group productivity,” she concludes.

Webb, N. (1994). Group collaboration in assessment: Competing objectives, processes, and outcomes (CSE Report 386). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).