University of Wisconsin–Madison

THE CHALLENGE OF EVALUATING ORAL PRESENTATIONS

Dr. Michelle Harris
Biocore

Grading student writing fairly and consistently is challenging. Grading student oral presentations fairly and consistently is downright scary. What if we don’t remember everything students said? How do we simultaneously listen carefully and jot down grading notes and think of good questions to ask them? Until recently, these and other similar nagging concerns kept me awake at night. As a lab instructor in the Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) Program, I wanted to be able to evaluate students’ oral performance as fairly as I did their writing.

We used this rubric for the first time in Biocore 324 lab in fall 2006 and were very pleased with it for several reasons. First, creating the rubric forced us to reflect carefully on and clearly articulate our expectations for student oral PowerPoint presentations. We decided on five basic components of a good oral PowerPoint presentation: content, organization, teamwork (our lab students work in groups of three to four), visuals, and presentation mechanics. Second, we had to define criteria within each of these categories specific to key issues of scientific thinking.

For example, in the content area, we focused on criteria such as developing a clear biological rationale and a complete, concise hypothesis statement. Third, we had to define the relative importance of these five components; we agreed that the first two components (content and organization) were more important than visuals and mechanics, because they were the strongest evidence of students’ understanding of scientific concepts and their efforts toward communicating them. The scores that teams earned on these first three components were thus weighted more heavily in terms of the overall presentation grade. Finally, we made the rubric available to students as they developed their slide shows, so there were far fewer student questions regarding our expectations. Research teams told us that they frequently referred to the rubric as they prepared their slides and practiced their oral presentations.

During the students’ 15-minute presentations, each of us (the TA, two undergrad TAs, and I) had the rubric in front of us while we listened. We made quick notes about the rating we gave for each component and often wrote cryptic comments to ourselves regarding questions/clarifications to ask each team during the five-minute question-answer session following each presentation. Immediately after all teams had presented, my TAs and I had a private round-table discussion of our individual component ratings and came to a consensus regarding the final grade for each presentation. When necessary, we would refer to the PowerPoint slides that students had posted online in our class My WebSpace folder.

I found that the component ratings assigned by my TAs often closely matched my own. When we had a difficult time deciding on a final grade, we would refer to the rubric to remind ourselves of the objective guidelines already in place. I felt much more confident that each final grade was appropriate, and TAs were better able to target precisely their written comments to help students improve.

 

Biocore Oral Presentation Rubric Conversion to Letter Grade

Grade

Minimum Criteria

A

Team earned a “4” in Content and Organization, earned a “3” or better in Teamwork, Visuals, and Presentation Mechanics.

AB

Team did not meet minimum criteria for an “A”, but earned a “3” or better in Content and Organization. Earned a “2” or better in Teamwork, Visuals, and Presentation Mechanics.

B

Team did not meet minimum criteria for an “AB”, but earned a “2” or better in Content and Organization. Earned a “1” or better in Teamwork, Visuals, and Presentation Mechanics.

BC

Team did not meet minimum criteria for a “B”, but earned a “1” or better in all five areas (Content, Organization, Teamwork, Visuals, and Presentation Mechanics).

C

Team did not meet minimum criteria for a “BC”, but earned a “1” or better in Content and Organization. Received no more than one zero in Teamwork, Visuals, and Presentation Mechanics.

D

Team did not meet minimum criteria for a “C”, but earned a “1” or better in either Content or Organization.

F

Team did not meet minimum criteria for a “D.”

 

 

Biocore Oral Presentation Rubric

 

0 = inadequate

(C, D or F)

1 = adequate

(BC)

2 = good

(B)

3 = very good

(AB)

4 = excellent

(A)

Content

Team’s presentation was missing many key components; those stated were unclear and/or were not stated concisely.

Team clearly, concisely, & thoroughly conveyed only some of the key components, and those presented could have been done much more clearly, concisely, and/or thoroughly.

Team clearly, concisely, & thoroughly conveyed most of the key components, OR they included all of the key components but many could have been presented more clearly, concisely and/or thoroughly.

Team clearly, concisely, & thoroughly conveyed all but 1 key component or had a problem similar to the following: clearly & thoroughly conveyed all key components but could have been a little more concise.

The team clearly, concisely, & thoroughly conveyed their research project such that the audience could grasp & evaluate the work. The presentation contained all of these key components: 1. a clear, logical biological rationale summarizing research goals, key concepts, unfamiliar terminology, & knowledge gaps to be addressed, referencing appropriate literature; 2. concise, complete hypothesis statement; 3. clear explanation of methods, particularly those unfamiliar to audience; 4. comprehensible graph(s) of results (or expected results); 5. clear & logical conclusions based on data (or expected data) & implications; 6. summary of assumptions that were supported or incorrect and any relevant problems/errors. 7. Audience questions after the presentation were answered logically and fully.                

Organization

The presentation content was not logically organized and so did not facilitate the audience’s comprehend-sion.

Only some of the presentation content was logically organized, and so many key clarifications were necessary after the presentation.

Most of the presentation content was logically organized, but some key clarifications were necessary after the presentation.

The presentation content was logically organized so that only a few minor clarifica-tions were necessary after the presentation.

The presentation content was logically organized in a way that facilitated the audience’s comprehension.

Teamwork

No teamwork was evident.

Teamwork was not effective because none of the three criteria was fully met.

Teamwork was somewhat effective; 1 of the 3 criteria was fully met.

Teamwork was largely effective; 2 of the 3 criteria were fully met.

Effective teamwork contributed to the success of the presentation because it met these criteria: 1. each team member’s contribution to the presentation was equivalent; 2. each team member contributed answers to questions asked after the presentation, to the best of their ability; 3. teammates were respectful of each speaker and did not interrupt them.

Visuals

The visuals used satisfied very few of the key criteria.

The visuals used satisfied only some of the key criteria.

The visuals used satisfied most of the key criteria.

The visuals used satisfied all but one of the key criteria.

The visuals accompanying the oral narrative very effectively conveyed the research project because they satisfied these criteria: 1. PowerPoint slide content was relevant; 2. overall slide appearance was pleasing to the eye but did not distract from the research; 3. font size, graphs, & figures were large enough to be seen from the back of the room; 4. font, graph, & figure colors contrasted well against background & so were easy to see; 5. slides were filled with just enough information to be informative without looking overcrowded; 6. graphs and figures were clearly labeled, had titles (no legends), and effectively displayed relevant data/trends.

Presentation Mechanics

The presentation mechanics satisfied very few of the key criteria.

The presentation mechanics satisfied only some of the key criteria.

The presentation mechanics satisfied most of the key criteria.

The presentation mechanics satisfied all but one to two of the key criteria.

The presentation mechanics allowed the research project to be very effectively conveyed because they satisfied these criteria: 1. the rate, flow, and clarity of delivery by each speaker was appropriate; 2. all speakers were introduced; 3. each speaker’s voice was loud enough to be heard in the back of the room; 4. each speaker spoke to the audience in a narrative style, avoiding distracting mannerisms; 5. transitions between speakers were smooth and helped audience follow the presentation; 6. graph & figure axes labeling were explained clearly before trends/results were emphasized; 7. each slide was displayed long enough to allow audience to read it; 8. presentation ended with final conclusion statement(s); 9. entire presentation took 15 +/- 1 minutes.