Publications & Resources

Equity Issues in Collaborative Group Assessment: Group Composition and Performance

Jul 1997

Noreen Webb, Kariane Nemer, Alex Chizhik and Brenda Sugrue

Large-scale assessment programs increasingly use group assessment tasks, in which small groups of students collaborate to solve problems or complete projects, often in combination with tasks that students perform individually. Whether some group compositions may be more advantageous than others is an important equity issue. The present study investigated the effects of group ability composition on group processes and outcomes in science performance assessments in which students worked on a series of assessments first individually, then in groups, and finally individually again. Group composition had a major impact on the quality of group discussion in group work and on students’ achievement test scores, both during group work and on the subsequent individual test. Groups with above-average students produced more correct answers and generated a greater number of high-quality explanations of how to solve the test problems than did groups without above-average students. The higher level of discussion translated into an advantage on the achievement tests for below-average students working in groups with above-average students compared to below-average students working in groups without above-average students: the former students performed better on the achievement test completed during group work and on the subsequent achievement test completed individually than did the latter students. High-ability students performed equally well in heterogeneous groups, homogeneous groups, and when they worked alone.

Webb, N., Nemer, K., Chizhik, A., & Sugrue, B. (1997). equity issues in collaborative group assessment: group composition and performance (CSE Report 457). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).