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A Method for Adjusting Group-Based Grades

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Student Learning, Problem Solving, & Critical Thinking 3

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.66.1 - 24.66.10



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Paper Authors


Eric L. Wang University of Nevada, Reno

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Eric L. Wang is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Wang has won numerous awards including the Regents Distinguished Teaching Award, Nevada's most prestigious teaching award. In addition to his pedagogical activities, Dr. Wang conducts research on sports equipment, biomechanics, robotics, and intelligent materials.

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Ann-Marie Vollstedt University of Nevada, Reno

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A Method for Adjusting Group-Based GradesAbstractGrades for assignments completed as an individual are a reflection of a student’s actual work,whereas the grade for a group assignment is easily confounded by the effects of their teammates(positively and negatively). Assigning grades to individuals for a group project is importantbecause instructors want to assign grades that reflect effort as well as content. Since all studentsin a group typically receive the same grade for a group assignment, group grades have theundesirable effect of obscuring a student’s true performance. Thus, it is desirable to develop amethod which could be used to more accurately reflect the true contribution of each studentwithin a group.The authors tried using several methods to determine the distribution of effort within the teamsincluding merit pay (a form of extra credit based on peer evaluations), team journals (whereteams self report the distribution of effort), and computerized team evaluations (e.g. CATME,which won the 2009 Engineering Pathways Premier Software award). All of these methods canbe used by the instructor to redistribute the group grade based on individual effort. In this paper,an automated method of adjusting the group grade is proposed and tested.A key assumption was that a team consisting of members, whom all received C’s on theirindividual assignments, would earn a low grade on their group work when compared to a teamconsisting entirely of A students (as measured by their individual grades). This assumption isbased on the fact that the group work in most classes requires that the students display a masteryof the skills learned from the assignments completed as an individual. Based on this assumption,a new method was developed to adjust grades within each group based on the residual of theindividual grades within the group and the portion of the course grade defined by group work.The method was tested on about 2000 student grades from a pair of first-year engineeringcourses. The key assumption was tested and verified. It was found that the automated gradeadjustment method agreed about 75% of the time with the manual grade changes made by theinstructors at the end of semester (based on journals, CATME, etc.). The grade adjustmentmethod has strong potential as a prequel to evaluating course changes as well as to give theinstructor a non-behavioral glimpse at team performance.However, it is recommended that the adjustment method only be used for internal assessmentpurposes and not for the actual computation of a student’s course grade for several reasons. First,the method is difficult to explain to students. Secondly, students would not be able to calculatetheir grade without knowing the grades of their teammates (a violation of FERPA laws). Lastly,students already dislike having their grade dependent on the performance of their teammates andthe proposed grading scheme would lead to a competitive rather than collaborative teamenvironment.

Wang, E. L., & Vollstedt, A. (2014, June), A Method for Adjusting Group-Based Grades Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19958

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