Assessing Teamwork/Group Work

What is effective teamwork?

In well-designed courses, teamwork does not refer to short-lived team-based activities (such as within a single lecture) or “patchwork” projects where students divide tasks, work mostly independently, and combine it together in the end. Rather, in well-designed teamwork projects, students work over the long term (more than during a single class) and know what they are meant to do, what their roles are, and have expectations of their teammates.

Why use teamwork in a course or program?

Collaboration and teamwork skills are the top capability that companies are looking for in entry-level candidates (Hewitt, 2016). As well, when planned thoughtfully, students engaged in collaborative learning can obtain a number of benefits to their disciplinary learning, including:
  • learning at a deeper level, by explaining their reasoning to others
  • engaging more with material, leading to longer information retention (Davies, 2009)
  • promoting problem-based learning and active vs. passive learning (Davies, 2009)
  • improving their collaborative skills, including negotiating, communicating, and project management (Fellenz, 2006).

What is the best way to assess teamwork?

How you assess any project communicates your learning priorities to students. Assessment keeps students accountable to your expectations and lets them know what they should spend their time on. For team-based projects, assessment should take place throughout the collaborative process. If you only assess the final product of a team’s efforts, the students may complete the task but pay little attention to team functioning, and learn very little about the process of becoming a team (Hillier & Dunn-Jensen, 2012). It takes thoughtful assessment design to reap the benefits of teamwork and to assess students as fairly as possible.

This section suggests some ideas for assessing teamwork that could be combined or adapted for your course. These approaches demonstrate the importance you place on working in a team, as well as helping students to stay on track, and supporting them in openly discussing team functioning. An overarching theme is that fair assessment of teamwork evaluates both the final product and the process. However, given the specifics of the team assignment, it is up to the instructor to decide what charcteristics to assess at various points in the process.

8 ideas for assessing teamwork

1. Provide rubrics and assessment details when you hand out the assignment tasks.

The ways in which students will be assessed (e.g., weighting, rubrics, peer assessment activities) should be given to students when the team task is assigned. You should have a clear plan on how your weighting, peer assessment, and milestone components will contribute to each individual grade.

2 Require students to compile and submit an individual contributions record or reflection.

Show that you value everyone's equal participation by requiring students to compile and submit an individual contributions reflection, in addition to the final group product. Ask students to assess their contribution to the project using self-assessment tools that focus on the process skills emphasized in the course outcomes. Examples of these skills include respectful listening to, and consideration of, opposing views or a minority opinion, effectively managing conflict around differences in ideas or approaches, keeping the group on track during and between meetings, analysis, writing, and promptness in meeting deadlines.

3. Use peer- and self-rating to adjust final grades based on individual citizenship.

Use a peer rating scheme to allow the final product mark to be adjusted based on individual citizenship (co-operation, fulfillment of responsibilities, communication, effort). Introduce your scheme early, and have students fill it out midway to share only with their teammates. This gives them a chance to improve, and prevents surprises in the final peer rating.

4. Incorporate information from assessors beyond the classroom.

In courses that have experiential or community-engaged projects, gather information from community partners to be considered as part of the final grade. Feedback from external clients can address the final product (“Does it work?” “Is it a good solution/ design?”) or the process, such as a commentary on the client’s interaction with the group.

5. Require and assess team building activities.

Assign marks for the thoughtful completion of team building activities, like the development of a team charter and team expectations agreements.

6. Assess students on project management.

Emphasize the importance of planning by assessing students on their project management in addition to their final products. Provide class time and support for the creation of project development plans and status reports, and consider how having distinct team member roles (e.g., scrum manager, checker) fits within their project management activities.

7. Create intermediate milestones and deadlines.

Help students structure their time for long-term projects by creating interim milestones and deadlines. Provide in-class time devoted to planning, so that students can make plans to meet these deadlines and assign duties and tasks within their group. For students who have previous experience with group work, you can turn some of the responsibility for setting interim deadlines over to students and have them submit their plans to you.

8. Provide frequent feedback to allow opportunities for team improvement.

Closely related to frequent assessment, ensure that students have a chance to receive, reflect upon, and in some cases, respond to feedback on their performance before the final submission. How you set up the feedback (peer feedback, check-in meetings, written feedback) will be unique to your needs and class context.

Examples and resources for assessing teamwork

Peer assessment for teamwork

  • Peer and self-rating of team members: Students peer and self-rate on criteria related to citizenship. Their ratings are used to adjust the final grade for each student, using an autorating system.
    See: Team Member Evaluation form (Oakley, Felder, Brent, & Elhajj, 2004, p. 29-30).
  • A system for anonymous and repeated peer rating: Students peer rate each other anonymously at a number of points throughout the course. They can see their own ratings and the aggregate ratings, but only the aggregate ratings are used to foster discussion about team functionality.
    See: Team Effectiveness Feedback form and a Formal Team Assessment form  (Hillier & Dunn-Jensen, 2012)

Team building worksheets

  • Worksheets guide students to put their expectations of each other in writing, and to revisit team functioning part way through the course. See: Evaluation of Progress Toward Effective Team Functioning form (Oakley et al., 2004, p. 28).
  • Worksheet with prompting questions to discuss team roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Hillier & Dunn-Jensen (2012, p. 722) suggest wording for a Team Charter worksheet, to help students discuss team expectations and functioning.


If you need further assistance with assessing teamwork, please contact us.


Davies, W. M. (2009). Group work as a form of assessment: common problems and recommended solutions. Higher Education 58 (563–584), doi: 10.1007/s10734-009-9216-y

Hewitt, A. (2016). Developing Canada’s future workforce: A survey of large private-sector employers. Ottawa : Business Council of Canada.

Hillier, J., & Dunn-Jensen, L.M. (2012). Groups meet… teams improve. Building Teams that Learn, 37(5), 704-733.

Oakley, B., Felder, R.M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of Student Centred Learning, 2(1), 9-34.

Wilson, K.J., Brickman, P., & Brame, C.J. (2018). Group work. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 17(1). Retrieved from