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Group Project Assessment in first year Business Economics

A first year Business Economics module was introduced in the academic year 1997/8, the coursework comprising a group project, in contrast to the essays and short tests used in the remainder of the first year Economics course.

Each group of four students is asked to come up with a business proposal. They are then asked to develop a business plan, and throughout the plan explain how decisions can be made using the economic theory that they have learnt throughout their Microeconomics and Business Economics modules. Prior to submitting the project, each group is asked to perform a 10 minute presentation to the rest of their tutorial group, describing the main elements of their proposal.

Students sometimes find it difficult to understand fully Microeconomics and Business Economics concepts and theories, and demonstrate different strengths and weaknesses. In group work, they can discuss parts of the subject that they find difficult and can learn from each other, as well as from a tutor. Further, students often do not seem to appreciate the full extent to which the theories they study relate to the 'real' economic world. The project directly addresses this problem, as the students consider the issues to be addressed when starting up a new business, and are encouraged to see how economic theories of, for example,

  • Demand and supply
  • Labour demand
  • Investment
  • Firms' strategic behaviour

can help them make informed business decisions.

By allowing the students freedom with regard to their business proposal, it is hoped that they will choose a proposal that they find interesting. (Business proposals have included a tattoo and body piercing shop, a golf driving range, an offshore online betting company and a computer repair service). However, since the group projects were first introduced a ban on proposals relating to potential campus businesses has been imposed as large numbers of students were proposing the creation of new bars and eateries on campus.

The presentations give students valuable experience in presenting material. However, the presentations are not marked. This reduced the pressure on part 1 students who may be unused to giving presentations.

Given that team members may have contributed to differing extents in developing a business proposal, project group leaders are asked to complete a form regarding the work of each student. All students are aware that statements will be made regarding the work of each team member. This ensures that marks can be deducted if students are identified as 'free-riding'. However, this problem has only arisen very rarely, and a brief meeting with each group member has been sufficient to determine how the marks should be distributed.

Formal and informal student feedback indicates that the students greatly enjoy working on the project and appreciate being given the opportunity to apply their Economics knowledge to their own business proposals. The standard of projects submitted has always been high, reflecting the students' interest and enjoyment in this piece of work.

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