Homework Presentation Rubric V1

In my 3rd-year quantum mechanics course last term I had the students each take a turn presenting an additional problem to the class. I wanted them to place emphasis on setting up their problem and interpreting their results over showing the intermediate mathematical grinding.

I wanted to share the rubric because I know how incredibly helpful it was to find rubrics that others had shared when I was putting together my own rubrics for various things. I have always adapted the rubrics that I found to suit my own situation and preferences, but they always provide a very helpful starting point as well as providing a useful framework when trying to put together my criteria.

A few notes first:

  • I asked them to give an 8-10 minute presentation, which sets the time scale against which “Appropriateness and depth was compared”.
  • Each category is assigned a score according to the lowest of the different things which could be evaluated as part of that category. For example, in “Appropriateness and depth”, a student that gave an overly long talk (say 15 minutes instead of the max of 10 minutes that I asked for) [Acceptable] and whose presentation only required minor clarifications [Good] would be assigned an overall score of  “Acceptable” for that category. When one of the criteria scores significantly lower than the others, I usually bump up the score so in the example above if there had been no clarification questions needed at all, I would have scored the overall category as “Good”.
  • One of the problems with a rubric with such specific criteria is that students always find amazing and new ways to break the rubric since it is nigh-impossible to anticipate every possible scenario. So I usually find ways to work these things into the rubric as well as I can and err on the side of benefit to the student. One of the ones that annoys me the most is when something comes up that crosses multiple categories of vastly different weights. I try not to double-penalize the students so it will mean that I am choosing between giving students a “Good” in a category worth very few points and one worth many points. And this choice tends to come with a fairly large swing in overall grade. I try to make notes of the occurrences so that I can revise the rubric in the future, but students are good at breaking any system you come up with.

Any and all feedback welcome.

Word version of the rubric: Homework_Presentation_Rubric_V1.docx

Excellent (x1) Good (x0.75) Acceptable (x0.5) Poor (x0.25) Unacceptable (0)
A1. Roadmap and organization [2 pts]
The main ideas or overall purpose (“what the question is about”) of the presentation are clearly communicated at the start of the presentation. The purpose of each sub-question is clearly stated before jumping directly into the details. A brief summary is provided for each sub-question, tying the answer back to the original sub-question. If appropriate (e.g., all the sub-questions make up a greater whole), a summary of the overall question is provided. There is room for creative license here, but the main point is that the presentation needs to be well-organized. Brief purposes and summaries are provided for most of the sub-questions. Some attempt is made to present the main ideas or overall purpose of the question at either the beginning or end of the presentation. Brief purposes and summaries are provided for most of the sub-questions. No attempt is made to present the main ideas or overall purpose of the question. Brief purposes and summaries are provided for less than half of the sub-questions. No attempt is made to present the main ideas or overall purpose of the question. No attempt is made to present the purpose or summarize any part of the question.
A2. Appropriateness and depth [2 pts]
The presentation is presented at the appropriate level for another person enrolled in the course (a “peer”) to be able to follow along with only minor clarification questions. Mathematical details are presented in a concise way, but are still worked out in sufficient depth that a peer does not need to fill in important details on their own. The overall presentation makes good use of time. One or two major clarification questions would be needed to fill in conceptual or important mathematical details that were left out. Mathematical details are mostly presented in a concise way. The presentation ran a little long or a little short, but was overall still reasonable in terms of use of time. Multiple major clarification questions would be needed to fill in conceptual or important mathematical details that were left out. More effort should have been put in to make the presentation more concise or to make the presentation fill the time allotted. Due to shooting way too high or way too low, a peer would wonder if this presentation was targeted toward a person in this course. Little effort appears to have been put in to make the presentation concise. No effort appears to have been put in to make the presentation concise or the presentation lacks enough depth to be informative in any way.
A3. Consistency and correctness of terminology and notation [2 pts.]
Terminology is always used correctly or when a mistake in terminology is made it is corrected by the end of the presentation. Notation and terminology are used in a consistent way. Some terminology is misused or is missing as a result of nervousness or oversight, but the audience recognizes that the presenter would probably be able to correct these errors if follow-up questions were asked. This misuse of terminology does not introduce any significant confusion into the presentation. There are one or two inconsistencies in notation or terminlogy that are left unaddressed. Some terminology is grossly misused or missing, and would be distracting to a peer. There are enough inconsistencies in notation and terminology to be distracting to a peer. Enough terminology is misused or missing to distract a knowledgeable audience and to confuse a peer. There are enough inconsistencies in notation or terminology to be confusing to a peer. Terminology is misused or notation / terminology are used inconsistently to the point that a peer would find it mostly impossible to follow the presentation.
A4. Accuracy and completeness of Physics [6 pts.]
The physics in the presentation is consistently accurate. Corrections to inaccuracies are made at the time of the mistake or by the end of the presentation. No significant errors or omissions are made. Audience is able to recognize that small errors or omissions are the result of nervousness or oversight. One significant error or omission is made. Multiple significant errors or omissions are made. Errors, contradictions and omissions are apparent and serious enough to make it almost impossible for a peer to determine which information is reliable.
A5. Interpretation of results [4 pts.]
Obvious effort is made to interpret results (in terms of analogous results in other contexts, why the result makes sense, or why the result is counterintuitive) whenever possible. The flow of the presentation is such that the mathematical details feel like their purpose is to support the results and their interpretation. Some effort is made to interpret results, but it feels like these interpretations take a back seat to mathematical details. There is only a small effort made to interpret results, and one or two results that beg for interpretation (e.g., extremely counter-intuitive results, obviously incorrect results due to execution errors) are mostly overlooked. The purpose of the presentation appears to be a demonstration in mathematical grinding. Most or all of the results that beg for interpretation are overlooked. No effort at all is made to interpret any of the results.
A6. Correctness of execution [2 pts.]
No mathematical or other execution errors survive uncorrected. One or two minor mathematical errors are made, but these do not result in answers that are incorrect in a significant way. There are multiple mathematical errors, but do not result in answers that are incorrect in a significant way. One or more errors are made that result in answers whose incorrectness should be apparent if the presenter were to try to interpret the answer or consider physics issues such as units. (Yes, you do get penalized for this sort of thing in multiple categories.) A step in the solution is purposely manipulated to compensate for an earlier mathematical error and to attempt to force a reasonable or known result.
A7. Speaking style [1 pt.]
Presentation is free from vocal fillers. Speaking style is conversational. Vocal variety (pitch, volume, pace, etc.) is used to enhance the message. Words are enunciated clearly. Vocal fillers are sometimes present, but are not distracting. Speaking adheres mostly to a conversational style. One or two words are not enunciated clearly. Vocal fillers are often present and are sometimes distracting. Pace is rushed. Speaker sometimes reads passages aloud from the poster or recites them from memory with a complete lack of vocal variety. Vocal fillers are often present and very distracting. Parts of the presentation are difficult to understand due to a lack of enunciation or appropriate speaking volume. Speaker usually reads passages aloud or recites them from memory with a complete lack of vocal variety. Most of the presentation is difficult to understand due to a lack of enunciation or appropriate speaking volume.
A8. Ability to answer questions [2 pts.]
Speaker answers all reasonable questions correctly and coherently. Speaker answers most of the reasonable questions correctly and coherently. Answers to questions indicate that the fundamentals are reasonably well understood. Answers to questions indicate that most of the fundamentals are reasonably well understood, but one or two important fundamental ideas are not. Answers to questions indicate that many of the fundamentals are not reasonably well understood. Answers to questions indicate that little to none of the fundamentals are reasonably well understood.
Overall [21 pts.]

The rubric was inspired by “NEIU Oral Communication Rubric” and “PHY420 Final Oral Presentation Rubric” by Ernie Behringer at Eastern Michigan University, but no longer bears any real resemblance to those rubrics.

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Learning Before Class Strategies Part 2.5: Types of Video Lectures

A screen capture of a smartPhysics multimedia lesson

This is part 2.5 (the second half of part 2) of a series on pre-class learning strategies, which can be used as part of the flipped or inverted class. In this post I will discuss the different types of video lectures.

  • Part 1 focused on some common types of assignments/assessments that you can use.
  • Part 2 discussed the various types of resources you can provide your students for use in learning before class strategies.
  • Part 2.5 is this post
  • Part 3 will discuss some tips and some issues that I have come across trying to implement learning before class strategies.
  • I also had a quick update post that pointed to some recent articles/blog posts by others on the subject of pre-reading assignments.

Types of Video Lectures

In Part 2 of this series I used “video lecture” as a generic term to describe a lot of different audio+visual methods to get content into student hands. Note that the lines between some of these are pretty blurry (e.g., there’s no real practical difference between a whiteboard presentation  screencast and a video-recording of a chalk and talk).
  • Screencasts – These are recordings of your computer screen with your voice over top. Sometimes people narrate as they do something in a program (e.g., how to fit your data with a Gaussian in Gnuplot), narrate as they use the computer as a virtual whiteboard (e.g., Khan Academy) or even narrate a slide presentation that is being presented (sometimes with a talking head like Roger Freedman does).
  • Multimedia Presentations – You can think of these as a step beyond screencasts, with tools such as animation creating much tighter presentations than screencasts. The best example I have encountered is the collection of multimedia prelectures created by the folks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne which are also included as part of their smartPhysics package. They use the PER literature  and the findings of research on multimedia learning to put these together in a way that is intended to maximize what students can learn from a direct instruction format.
  • Pencasts – These are recordings of what you write on paper using a special kind of pen (LiveScribe) which simultaneously records audio while you are writing. Watching a pencast is like sitting down beside somebody writing something down in a notebook while they talk you through it. Except you can click on anything they have written and rewatch it. It’s also possible to download a pdf of completed notes. I generated a whole bunch of these for my 3rd-year quantum course last term and the students gave me pretty positive feedback on the format. I also asked my students to each turn in one of their solutions as a pencast. This is a great idea that came to me from Andy Rundquist. What’s great about it is that they can’t just copy the solution from the web or a buddy. They have to make sure they understand what they did in the question before they sit down to present it as a pencast.
  • Video Recordings – You can record demonstrations, targeted lectures, etc. There are also many resources on the web (see some of the links on this the Active Class post).

Random Notes

  • I am not an advocate of traditional lecture and moving direct instruction onto a computer screen doesn’t change the fact that it is direct instruction. Most of the learning before class strategies I have been discussing rely on some sort of direct instruction to communicate initial content and I think video lectures can be effective in setting up what happens in the classroom later if they target ideas that are accessible to a novice.
  • Following up on the last bullet. I have been using smartPhysics this year for my calc-based intro physics course and I think their multimedia presentations are very well done, but ultimately they are communicating content at the same level as a regular textbook (see Part 2 of this series for my discussion on the suitability of textbooks as a first-contact resource). I don’t think it is a good use of student time or good-will for them to be confronted with challenging derivations two minutes after being introduced to a new topic. These pre-lectures are editable (as in I can take some of the material out) through the smartPhysics system so this term I have been aggressively trimming down the presentations so that the students get more of an introductory overview of the chapter as opposed to a 20-minute run through of the entire chapter. There’s a post slowly writing itself on my experiences with smartPhysics.
  • I have a tablet PC as my laptop, which should make it great for doing the virtual whiteboard thing, but some combination of the computer’s fan and other issues with the audio hardware introduces too much background noise (even when I have tried an external mic). I have tried post-recording noise reduction on the audio track and it worked pretty well, but that makes the whole thing fairly unsuitable for quick and dirty screencasts. I imagine that when I teach a comp phys class I will probably make more use of them for “this is how you do x” types of screencasts on a computer without noise issues.

End

 Part 3 some day.