Engineering design courses often utilize team-based projects as a primary form of assessment. While this approach recognizes the realities of design in the engineering workforce, often individual contributions to the overall group project are difficult to ascertain. One method often used to determine individual contributions are peer reviews, but this approach does not require each student to be responsible for all aspects of a particular project.
Individual exams can assess topic comprehension, but may not correlate to the open-ended nature of a design project. Over six offerings of a required senior level design course, the author has iterated a potential approach that requires individuals to take responsibility for critical aspects of a group project in a manner that recognizes and values the inherent complexity of design.
This article details the evolution of these individualized assessment pieces to complement project-based learning activities. Initially projects and individualized assessment pieces were separate syllabus items, with each contributing a certain percentage to the students’ overall grades.
Additionally, students were required to earn a passing grade on the individual piece in order to receive full credit for the project. Individuals not meeting this standard received a portion of the group project grade corresponding to their grade on the individual assignment – for example, a student scoring only 50% on the individual assignment, would receive only 50% of the group project grade.
Subsequent iterations retained the link between individual assessment and group projects, but removed a numerical grade from the individual piece, requiring instead that students meet a certain performance criteria and correlating these criteria to a percentage of their group project grade. Benefits and limitations of each approach will be discussed including comments both on student performance, student perceptions, and instructor observations.