I am writing a syllabus for a statistics course which I will teach next year. My plan includes a group project for students. To reflect the contributions of each students, I want to grade the project as a whole and let students decides how to split the points. But students who read my syllabus pointed out that this make them feel awkward.

Is there a better way for grading group/collaborative project/work?

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    $\begingroup$ A zero-sum point splitting scheme seems fraught with peril. Does everyone need to agree, or is it majority rule? If it's the former, you're relying on underperforming group members honorably accepting their fate, and if it's the latter, most group members would be best served by assigning a minority no points at all and keeping them all for themselves. The individual incentive of getting the most amount of points possible does not align at all with the goal of achieving a "fair" distribution of points. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ I ask each student in the group to detail their contribution to the project, in a private communication to me as instructor. I've found that if there are great inequities, they surface in these reports, and I can apportion the grade accordingly, possibly after talking to the students if they contradict one another. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ Here is my feeling on small groups: they have chaotic dynamics that make any sort of modeling intractable. So if you are assigning a group project, then I feel that you should assess the project and not try to parse the work back into individual contributions (that's what individual assignments are for). Then, each member of the group should receive the same grade. It is not perfect, but is consistent with the idea of "group work". There could be special cases where some members don't contribute, but that gets back to the complexities of groups... $\endgroup$
    – Carser
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ Based on my reading of Feldman's Grading for Equity, grades should, as much as possible, reflect an individual student's demonstrated understanding of the course goals. There are a lot of confounding factors here, including measures of other students and (assuming group work isn't taught in the course) a student's ability to work in groups. Feldman suggests presenting the group assignment as a learning opportunity and assessing what students learned from the assignment individually. $\endgroup$
    – TomKern
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 17:50

4 Answers 4


My approach (that has worked successfully with my students for over a decade) has been to give equal grades to all students in the group unless I uncover evidence that someone has been free riding.

To that end, I survey the teams at the end of the project and ask them to evaluate the contributions of all of the team members. I also require an explicit statement of contributions in the project report.


When I taught Math for Elementary Teachers, I had some group projects that I believed would help them learn problem-solving. They had to work together. They had to each write it up individually. In their write-ups, they had to credit group members who had helped with the solution process. They each got an individual grade for their individual write-ups (which they couldn't do well on if the group hadn't figured things out together).

I have not felt a need for graded group work recently, but this seemed like a good way to both require them to work together and grade them individually.


Don't do it. You are inviting drama. If you are going to do group work (debate-able and hopefully not whole hog), just split it like Solomon. Chop the baby!

P.s. If you LIKE dramahz, there is still the dynamic of group selection to give you that enjoyment. (Unless you force the assignments...killjoy.)


If you wish to assess individual capabilities, use an individual assignment. Group projects are fundamentally and unavoidably terrible at doing so. Use group assignments, instead, to encourage collaboration - this is, you may notice, completely incompatible with your suggested marking system, which actively encourages antagonistic behaviours towards other group members.

As far as actual methods of assessing group projects goes, I'd suggest just... not. If for some reason you actually must have a number next to it in some system, grade on completion. If not, just don't write any numbers down. Give verbal feedback to the group, of course, and I suppose you could give them some sort of numerical or letter grade if you really wanted, but I'm not convinced that there's any particular benefit to doing so, and I certainly wouldn't write that number down anywhere (at least not anywhere that matters).


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