AV & Presentation | Viewpoint

How Do You Grade a Presentation Minus Content?

To say that presentations are omnipresent in academia is an understatement of the highest order. They are the standard for disseminating information to groups large and small. It is the medium for educating, inspiring, and persuading, as well as simply reporting and regurgitating.

It seems today as if college students can't open their mouths without an electronic presentation. Gone are the nostalgic days of elementary school when students assigned to talk about Abraham Lincoln dressed in period garb and pretended to be the character. By the time they reach college, they can't imagine even discussing Lincoln without a loaded clicker in their hand and PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi appearing behind them so they can read off of it line by line.

Faced with presentation after presentation in dimmed classrooms, I have become bothered by one set of circumstances: A student with great intentions spends an exorbitant amount of time putting together a fantastic presentation but fails to include all of the materials I believe should be there. Based solely on content, the student receives a terrible grade and doesn't reap the reward for the hours spent creating the presentation. But a fellow student who spends little time on the presentation yet covers all the content I expect is rewarded with a high grade.

To address this situation and rectify a perceived wrong I have decided to use two rubrics in the grading of presentations. The first rubric addresses the content only and is specific to the assignment. The second rubric is only for the presentation itself. How the message is presented is emphasized over the message in this rubric because in every context the content changes.

Armed with the idea and no real plan of how it would look in implementation, I turned to 12 fellow faculty members at my own and sister institutions. We decided the "how" of the message should be divided into six dimensions with each dimension evaluated on the following scale:

  • 1 = Needs work
  • 2 = Satisfactory
  • 3 = Commendable
  • 4 = Exceptional

The following rubric can be used for the presentation regardless of the technology used:

Presentation Dimensions

4 (Exceptional)

3 (Commendable)

2 (Satisfactory)

1 (Needs Work)

Effective Use of Aids

Aids were relevant to the topic, not merely used as time filler.

Aids enhanced the speaker's message.

For the most part, aids were relevant to the topic.

Aids enhanced the speaker's message.

Aids were used but did not seem relevant to the topic.

Aids appeared to be used as time filler.

No use of aids.

Voice Quality

Strong and clear voice.

Audible from the back of the room.

Possessed a lively pace and engaging tone throughout presentation.

Spoke confidently when presenting the material.

Mostly spoke with a strong and clear voice, at times needed to speak up.

Possessed a lively pace and engaging tone for most of the presentation.

Once or twice seemed unsure of self when presenting.

Spoke clearly but frequently needed to speak up.

Slightly monotone in pace and tone. Needed to be livelier.

Seemed confident and unsure of self at various points of presentations.

At times spoke faintly and was hard to understand.

Hard for audience at the back of the room to hear.

Overall was monotone in pace and tone.

Needs to work on confidently presenting the material.

Relatable

Used the language of the audience and connected with them.

Used appropriate analogies and

metaphors.
Adapted message to the audience.

Used a few words that were out of touch with the audience but still connected with them.

For the most part, used appropriate analogies and metaphors.

Adapted the message to the audience but needed some minor tweaks.

Could've spoken their language more and connected more with audience.

Some analogies and metaphors fell short.

Could've done a better job of adapting the message to the audience.

Was out of touch with the audience, poorly connected with them.

Analogies and metaphor were out of place when considering the audience.

Poorly adapted the message to the audience.

Flow

Presentation followed an obvious outline and progression.

Presentation ended within time limit.

Speaker spent the right amount of time on each aspect of the presentation.

Speaker jumped around a little during presentation but mostly followed an obvious outline and progression.

Presentation ended within time limit.

Once or twice, the speaker spent too much time or not enough time on certain aspects of the presentation.

Although presentation followed an outline and progression, the speaker jumped around too much and appeared disorganized.

Speaker was pushing it on the time limit.

The speaker spent too much time on certain aspects of presentation and not enough time on others.

Speaker did not seem to follow an outline with presentation.

Presentation lasted too long or was not long enough.

Speaker did not seem prepared. He or she spent too much time on certain aspects of presentation and not enough time on others.

Stage Presence

Wore appropriate attire for presentation.

Carried himself or herself in a confident and engaging manner with the audience.

Maintained eye contact with the audience.

Speaker glanced occasionally at notes rather than reading it like a script.

Wore appropriate attire for presentation.

Needs a little work on carrying himself or herself in a confident and engaging manner with audience.

For the most part, maintained eye contact with the audience.

Once or twice, speaker lost his or her place and had to read from notes.

Could've picked something more appropriate to wear for the presentation.

Needs to work on carrying himself or herself in a confident and engaging manner with the audience.

Needs to maintain more eye contact with the audience.

Needs to rely less on notes.

Speaker's attire was not appropriate for the occasion/presentation.

Did not carry himself or herself in a confident and engaging manner with of the audience.

Did not maintain eye contact with the audience.

Relied too much on notes and read from them like a script.

Audience Engagement

Engaged the audience and successfully elicited involvement.

Offered a Q&A time.

Acknowledged and clearly answered all questions.

Tried to engage the audience and elicit involvement and was mostly successful.

Offered a Q&A time.

Acknowledged all questions but left one or two unanswered.

Could've done more to engage the audience and elicit involvement.

Almost forgot to offer a Q&A time.

Did not clearly answer questions.

Took minimal to no action to engage the audience. It was a one-sided conversation.

Did not offer a Q&A time.

After much discussion, it was decided that PowerPoint is too ubiquitous not to have a rubric of its own. The same scale was kept, but the six dimensions were modified to focus solely on the PowerPoint presentation:

PowerPoint (PPT) Dimensions

4 (Exceptional)

3 (Commendable)

2 (Satisfactory)

1 (Needs Work)

Font

Consistent font throughout PPT.

Large enough that it is readable.

Appropriate font for the context of presentation.

Appropriate colors for font that contrasted with the background.

A few inconsistent uses of font in PPT. Minimal though.

For the most part, font is large enough that it is readable.

Appropriate font for the context of presentation.

Appropriate colors for font that contrasted with the background.

Three or more font families and sizes used in PPT.

Some fonts too small or not readable.

A few inappropriate uses of fonts (all caps, cursive, unreadable font type, etc.) for the context of presentation.

A few font colors clashed with the background.

Inconsistent use of fonts with a variety of families and sizes in PPT.

Too much typography unreadable.

Too much Inappropriate uses of fonts (all caps, cursive unreadable font family, etc.) for the context of presentation.

Font colors clashed with the background.

Spelling & Grammar

No spelling errors.

No grammatical errors.

One to three spelling errors.

One to three grammatical errors.

Four to six spelling errors.

Four to six grammatical errors.

Seven or more spelling errors.

Seven or more grammatical errors.

Visual Data, Transitions & Graphics

Data (if available) presented visually.

Visual data titled and readable.

Graphics were relevant to presentation.

Quick transitions from slide to slide.

Graphics enhanced the presentation.

Data (if available) presented visually.

Visual data titled and readable.

Graphics were relevant to presentation, but better ones could have been chosen.

Quick transitions from slide to slide.

Overall the graphics enhanced the presentation, but one or two were distracting.

Some data (if available) not presented visually.

Some visual data not titled or readable.

Several graphics were irrelevant to presentation, and should not have been included.

Slow transitions from slide to slide.

Graphics were slightly distracting, although some did enhance the presentation.

Data (if available) not presented visually.

Most graphics were irrelevant to presentation.

Transitions from slide to slide took too long.

Graphics were distracting and did not enhance the presentation.

Background

Background provided appropriate frame for the message.

High contrast in colors allowed for better readability.

All content was easily seen.

Background provided appropriate frame for the message.

Colors contrasted and allowed for readability by audience. Higher contrast in color would have been an improvement though.

All content was easily seen.

Could've chosen a better frame for the message.

Colors of background did not contrast enough, making some portions hard to read.

Background did not provide appropriate frame for the message.

Colors of the background and materials were too similar and made for poor readability.

Slides

Key points were bulleted.

Appropriate number of slides given the timeframe.

Slides had the right amount of detail. Not cluttered with too much or bare with too little.

Page numbers included in each slide.

Appropriate headers for each slide.

Key points were bulleted with some details expressed in sentences.

PPT could have used more or fewer slides given the timeframe.

One ot two slides had too much or too little detail.

Page numbers included in each slide.

Appropriate headers for each slide.

Most key points were expressed in sentences with a few bullet points.

PPT could have used more or fewer slides given the timeframe.

Three to five slides had too much or too little detail.

Page numbers missing from one to two slides.

One to two slides missing headers.

Complete sentences or paragraphs placed in slides. Too few or no bullet points.

Too many or too few slides for the timerame.

Most slides had too much or too little detail.

Page numbers were missing from all slides.

Three or more slides were missing headers.

Documentation

Sources cited in appropriate style.

Reference page included in the end with no errors.

One to two sources cited incorrectly.

Reference page included in the end with one to two errors.

Three or more sources incorrectly cited.

Reference page included in the end with three or more errors.

Sources not cited.

Reference page not included in the end.

I have been using a combination of both of these rubrics for more than a year now. While I am completely pleased with neither, they do allow students to have a portion of their grade be based on the presentation itself and not be graded solely on content. As such, they represent a step in the right direction and when married with a separate content-specific rubric generate more appropriate grading that acknowledges the effort of the student than I thought I was providing in the past.

Special thanks are due to the following faculty who contributed to the creation of the matrices: Allen Knight, Carsten Hennings, Deb Toomey, Deidra Colvin, Gary Tucker, Jeanne Craig, Jeff Hittler, Jeffrey Bowe, Jill Risner, Ken Bixby, Kim Hadley, and Paul Lavendar.