5 A group self-evaluation protocol: setting the ground rules

A modified group self-evaluation procedure

The self-evaluation procedure we have developed is based on a “category approach”. It differs from those previously discussed (Brown, 1995; Conway, 1993; Lejk & Wyvill, 2001a, 2001b), and from other online group-evaluation applications (O’Neill et al., 2018; Freeman & McKenzie, 2002),  in that group members define their own group-functioning rules; a minimum of five and a maximum of seven. We refer to these rules as “ground rules”; they are behaviorally-anchored criteria that favor effective group functioning. The instructor, or leader, may give hints about characteristics of effective groups to spark discussion, but the ground rules are not imposed on the group. The group self-evaluation includes four events shown in Figure 1 below. In addition to these events, we organize three formal sessions in which the groups discuss the project with an instructor. The self-evaluation events and discussion sessions are referred to as project tutorials.

Figure 1. Time line of events of the group self-evaluation procedure
Figure 1. Time line of events of the group self-evaluation procedure

In this page we discuss the start of the project

A brief instruction about the many challenges of collaborative projects

This instruction consists of a 10 minute presentation outlining group functioning and challenges:  achieving the task, constructing and maintaining group effort and taking into account the individual needs of group members (Asgari & Dall’Alba, 2011). Students are also informed that task delegation should take into account the different personalities within the group; taking benefit of social, cerebral or extrovert traits. Finally, students were informed about group dynamics in which the emphasis was placed on possible disruptions that may occur within the group when: making strategic decisions (direction of the project, deliberate planning), co-constructing knowledge (transactive dialogue), delegating necessary tasks, adjustments (reactive planning), controlling time limits or when members do not comply with the ground rules (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977; Van den Bossche et al., 2006). The slide show that supports this instruction can be found at the bottom of this page.

the many challenges of a group project banner

Setting the Ground Rules

In the first tutorial session that accompanies a collaborative project, groups are given time to discuss their project and prepare a set of 5 to 7 ground rules. These numbers were chosen for two reasons: firstly, in prior experiences groups spontaneously came up with 5 rules and, secondly, this number allows for a nuanced, less subjective, evaluation of the group members. Students hardly ever came up with 8 rules and more rules would unnecessarily complicate the evaluation. Our reasoning for creating the ground rules themselves is that students understand their own criteria better than those prescribed by someone else (instructor or leaders), the criteria are more likely to be appropriate for the collaborative task in question and groups that establish forward-looking agreements about how they want to work together were shown to be more focused and motivated to implement self-corrections or make adjustments to team processes (DeChurch & Haas, 2008). The process normally takes roughly 30 minutes. The ground rules are converted into questions and are fed into a web-based self-evaluation application (figure 3).

Figure 3.  Setting the ground rules (in class) and turning these rules into evaluation questions in an online application.
Figure 3.  Setting the ground rules (in class) and turning these rules into evaluation questions in an online application.

a brief instruction about collaborative projects


Asgari, S., & Dall’Alba, G. (2011). Improving Group Functioning in Solving Realistic Problems. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1), Article 8. http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/ij-sotl/vol5/iss1/8

Brown, R.W. (1995, November 1-4). Autorating: Getting individual marks from team marks and enhancing teamwork. Proceedings Frontiers in Education, 25th Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, USA. https://doi.org/10.1109/FIE.1995.483140

 Conway, R., Kember, D., & Wu, A.S & M. (1993). Peer assessment of an individual‘s contribution to a group project. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 18(1), 45-56. https://doi.org/10.1080/0260293930180104

DeChurch, L.A. & Haas, C.D. (2008). Examining team planning through an episodic lens effects of deliberate, contingency, and reactive planning on team effectiveness. Small Group Research, 39, 542–568. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496408320048

Freeman, M., & McKenzie, J. (2002). SPARK, a confidential web–based template for self and peer assessment of student teamwork: benefits of evaluating across different subjects. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33: 551-569. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8535.00291

Lejk, M., & M. Wyvill. (2001a). Peer Assessment of Contributions to a Group Project: A Comparison of Holistic and Category-based Approaches. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 26(1), 61–72). https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930020022291

Lejk, M., & M. Wyvill. (2001b). The effect of the Inclusion of Self-assessment with Peer Assessment of Contributions to a Group Project: A Quantitative Study of Secret and Agreed Assessments. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 26(6), 551–561. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930120093887

O’Neill, T.A., Deacon, A., Gibbard, K., Larson, N., Hoffart, G., Smith, J., & Donia, B.L.M. (2018). Team dynamics feedback for postsecondary student learning teams, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(4), 571-585. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1380161

Tuckman, B., & Jensen, M.A.C. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), 419-427. https://doi.org/10.1177/105960117700200404 

Van den Bossche, P., Gijselaers, W.H., Segers, M., & Kirschner P.A. (2006). Social and cognitive factors driving teamwork in collaborative learning environments. Team learning beliefs & behaviors. Small Group Research, 37(5), 490-521. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496406292938