For sometime–in fact for many years–the Instructions to examiners and assessors has said the following about group projects:
2 Group Projects
a The inclusion of any group project as part of the contribution to the final coursework percentage in a course should be restricted to relevant fields at higher levels.
b Assessment should be on an individual basis, wherever possible.
c Assessment criteria should be established and project supervisory staff should be able to assess individual contributions to the project.
d Each group working on a project should be of a limited size and not exceed a membership of four.
e Where marks allocated for group projects are part of the final percentage, such marks should not normally constitute more than 20% of the total marks for the course.
The new (2010) instructions takes a very different tack, saying:
2 Group Projects
a Group projects may contribute to the final coursework percentage awarded in a course.
b Assessment should be based on a combination of a group mark for the completed work and an individual mark for contribution to the process. The individual mark may come from peer or peer-moderated self-assessment.
c Assessment criteria should be established and cover both the output of the group project and the process by which it is produced, including the contribution of individuals.
d Each group working on a project should be of a limited size and not normally exceed a membership of four.
These changes have been signalled for some time. However, I think it worthwhile to highlight a few features of the new policy. First, the prohibition on groups of over four members has been considerably softened.
Secondly, the limits on the amount of marks that can be allocated to group assignments has been removed. Finally, the use of peer-review or self-review to moderate group marks has been formally recognised. Of course, the University has allowed such practices in the past; but only on a case-by-case basis. Now, these very useful pedagogical tools more 'usable' for teaching staff.
As one who has used many of these techniques in my teaching, I think this policy change is a "very good thing".
Lisa Callagher, Andrew Eberhard, and I have been wrestling with how we can do some of the mechanics of peer-review in a more systematic/automated manner so that students can get timely and accurate feedback on how their peers see their performance. I hope we can get some tools in place before I teach again next semester.