Group and individual evaluation in engineering project courses

Calin Stoicoiu


In engineering programs of study, students often work in small to medium size groups. In particular, programs designed on the project –based learning principle rely heavier on structured group work for projects and integrated courses. There are incontestable benefits surfacing from group work, particularly seen as the increase of critical thinking and problem solving skills and development of social interaction abilities.
Challenges occur more often than expected with the assessment and evaluation of the individual performance and participation of each group member in contrast with the whole group results. The final result can be outstanding but it might realistically belong to only one or two group members. The result of the individual assessment must not only reflect accurately and fairly one’s effort but also fit properly in the whole group diversity landscape. Alternatively, group members may have valuable but rather inconspicuous contributions that might easily be undetected and go unrecognized.
How to identify sooner rather than later the non-participating students within the group and correct the situation? Which is the best method of fair detection and praise for considerable contribution? The extraction of peer evaluation data and its incorporation in the overall group assessment, represents another often difficult or misinterpreted task. These are questions and challenges yet to be properly addressed. This paper provides a synopsis of existing evaluation techniques for engineering students working in groups, both from a psychological and academic point of view, including examples of current practices from existing project –based learning programs.

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