Assessing Final-Year Practical Work Through Group Projects; A Further Study

Philippa B Cranwell, Elizabeth M Page


The use of a group-based approach to project working has been shown to provide significant advantage to students in terms of project outcomes, motivation and engagement. The Department of Chemistry at the University of Reading has recently explored the use of group projects for final year practical work. In this model, students are presented with a research problem that they investigate within a team of three to five students. Students are expected to divide the work and share results in a manner that closely resembles project working in industry. This paper will report the experiences and attitudes of final-year BSc students towards this group-based approach, and outline the self-identified skills development of these students.


Group working; Problem based learning; Collaborative learning; Student led researchFinal year project.

Full Text:



Barrows, H.S. (1986). A taxonomy of problem-based learning methods. Medical Education, 20, 481–486. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.1986.tb01386.x

Boud, D., & Feletti, G. (1997). The challenge of Problem-Based learning. London, UK: Kogan Page

Brubacher, M., Payne, R. & Rickett, K. (Eds.) (1990). Perspectives on small group learning: Theory and practice. Oakvale, Ontario: Rubicon.

Burke, A. (2011). Group Work: How to Use Groups Effectively. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 11, 87–95.

Cabrera, A.F., Crissman, J.L., Bernal, E.M., Nora, A., Terenzini, P.T. & Pascarella, E.T. (2002). Collaborative learning: Its impact on college students’ development and diversity. Journal of College Student Development, 43, 20–34.

Cohen, E.G. (1994). Restructuring the Classroom: Conditions for Productive Small Groups. Review of Educational Research, 64, 1–35. DOI: 10.2307/1170744

Cranwell, P.B., Page, E.M. & Squires, A.M. (2017). Assessing Final-Year Practical Work Through Group Projects. Practice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 12, 494–504.

Davidson, N. (1994, 2002). Cooperative and collaborative learning: An integrative perspective. In J. Thousand, R. Villa, & A. Nevin (Eds.), Creativity and collaborative learning: A practical guide for empowering teachers and students (pp. 13-30). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Davidson, N. & Major, C.H. (2014). Boundary Crossings: Cooperative Learning, Collaborative Learning, and Problem-Based Learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25, 7–55.

Davidson, N. & Worsham, T. (1992), Enhancing Thinking Through Cooperative Learning. Teachers College Press.

Laal, M. & Laal, M. (2012), Collaborative learning: what is it?. Procedia - Social and Behavioural Sciences 31 (2012) 491–495. DOI: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.12.092

Major, C. H., & Eck, J. C. (2000). Connecting goals, methods, and measures: A problem for problem-based learning. Assessment Update, 12(1), 1-2, 10-11.

Matthews, R.S. (1996), Collaborative Learning: creating knowledge with students, in Menges, M., Weimer, M. and Associates (Eds.). Teaching on solid ground: Using scholarship to improve practice, pp 101–124. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sharp, S. (2006). Deriving individual student marks from a tutor’s assessment of group work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31, 329–343. DOI: 10.1080/02602930500352956

Springer, L., Stanne, M.E. & Donovan, S.S. (1999). Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69, 21–51. DOI: 10.2307/1170643

Tinto, V., Goodsell, A. & Russo, P. (1993). Building community. Liberal Education 79, 16-21.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

New Directions in the Teaching of Natural Sciences

eISSN: 2753-4138

University Home