# 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.

### 7 Comments on “Homework Presentation Rubric V1”

1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

Joss, I really find it interesting thinking about using something like this vs how I just give one score for the whole thing when doing my oral standards. I really like how this maps, for the students, all the things they should be doing. With mine, it really only seems to work when we have a class conversation about it, but even then I realize that we get fixated on one or two of your categories.

• Joss Ives says:

The main difference that I see is that none of your individual assessments are “high stakes” because of the number of them that the students do. Then they only do one of these presentations I feel in need (or owe them) finer granularity than their only options for good marks being 3=75% and 4=100%.

2. Bret Benesh says:

Hi Joss,

How much did you discuss the rubric in class? Did students have examples of what “Acceptable” vs “Good” vs “Excellent” means in each category?
Bret

• Joss Ives says:

Hi Bret,

We didn’t have any discussion of the rubric in class, but I posted it before the presentations started and encouraged them to read through the rubric as part of their preparation. I’m pretty sure most of them didn’t bother to look at it.

One of the reasons I try to make the rubric as detailed as possible is so that there is little need for examples, but for some of the categories it probably would have been helpful for me to have given them examples.

For these talks I had a reassessment policy where they were allowed to re-present or present a new problem if they weren’t happy with their mark on the first one. Nobody took me up on it. I try to emphasize to them that it usually takes multiple revisions of papers, talks, etc., to get to a point where the product is of good quality. In my Advanced Lab course I enforce this by requiring that their papers are “accepted” (earning a grade above 75%) for them to pass the course and the rubric that I use on those papers is quite strict.

3. I rarely create specific rubrics for the reasons you give: “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. … One of the ones that annoys me the most is when something comes up that crosses multiple categories of vastly different weights.”

I’ll be going to a meeting of science-fair judges next week, and already one of the judges has asked for the rubric to stop having specific numbers of points for different parts of the rubric. The students never see the points (totals or breakdown), and only the ranking of the students matters in the judging, so the exercise of having to assign points to different parts of the rubric after deciding that project A is better than project B is really rather pointless. Many of the judges I know assign total scores to get the ranking right, then try to make up numbers for the different parts of the rubric to get the total to come out right. In other words, the rubric is a sham. Instead of a fixed-point rubric, what would help the judges more is to give a list of things to look for, but allow judges to use their judgement on how much to weight each thing.

Coming back to the physics-class examples—it makes sense to have a list of criteria of a good presentation (length 8 minutes±1minute, more emphasis on setting up problems than on doing algebra, …) but then use your judgement in deciding how well any particular presentation worked. A student who does a great tutorial on the subject, but runs a couple of minutes over, might be docked less than a student whose presentation is overtime by the same amount because they stumble around making mistakes. You can give students an idea of the importance of different aspects by ordering your list of criteria, without locking yourself into specific numbers of points for each.

• Joss Ives says:

I like that this type of detailed rubric, in principle, is really helpful in facilitating feedback to the student and is efficient since everything is laid out clearly. In practice I often have to make many judgement calls and it feels like I am fighting the rubric instead of having it make my job easier. The other thing that I like about the detailed rubrics is that (again) in principle they are objective, but in practice they are more subjective than I would like. It’s not as bad as the example you give of the judges having to cook the scores to make the rankings work out, but if I always end up needing to be more subjective than my objective rubric was designed to be, then I need a paradigm shift to let the subjective and objective sides play together more nicely.

I’m in the middle of revising my rubrics for the writing assignments in my Advanced Lab course and I will see if I can come up with something where I keep the categories roughly how I have laid them out, but use them to inform an overall grade in a transparent but less fixed-point way.

Thanks for the feedback everybody.

4. […] Joss Ives, in his Science Learnification blog, presented a rubric he uses for presentations in his quantum mechanics class: Homework Presentation Rubric V1. […]