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When I first taught at Texas State University, I learned some creative ways to support students’ GIS project from my colleague, Sven Fuhrmann. In addition to the written requirements of submitting a project proposal, progress report, then a final project and class presentation, he initiated something that included the community.
Sven worked closely with the police department in San Marcos, who provided us with crime data for student analysis. The natural link was for students to present at the police station. Students set-up their project at the police station where staff and the police chief came around to learn about student projects. Lesson 1: Students learned to be polished in their project presentation as well as their attire and presentation skills.
In the following year, we rented a large meeting room in the center of campus, in the Student Center. We invited faculty from our department and different disciplines (attendees came from business/marketing, math, sociology, and student services) to 1) learn about geography and how it might link with their work, 2) to vote on the best poster, and 3) to evaluate a set number of posters. In the voting process, each student and guest received a ballot, to encourage them to learn about other students’ work and to vote for the “best” poster. Top winners were awarded with book prizes. Lesson 2: Include colleagues from other disciplines. This network is useful for personal research and for students to be in dialogue with non-geographers (and to share the value of a geographic lens to non-geographers).
The next time we taught the course, we replaced the presentation with a video requirement. Students were asked to create a 5 minute video (Jing is a free software that records voice and visual on screen) to summarize their project. Lesson 3: The grading process was less hurried but we lost the interaction possible for students and the wider faculty.
To prepare students for the grading process, we shared past project posters and asked students to evaluate with a rubric. In the discussion process, students learned to see the assessment from the instructors’ perspective and they found this exercise useful to develop constructive criticism for their own project.
Below is an example of rubric items
Geographic Questions: research question(s) explore a geographic perspective
Background Information: concise summary of background based on literature (newspaper, text etc)
Data Selection: data selected appropriate for analysis
Method/Analysis: GIS analyses well thought out and support conclusions
Map Design: proper map formatting (e.g., neat line, north arrow etc); well organized maps; no errors in data mapped
Results: results of GIS analytical operations obvious
Conclusion(s): Discuss and explain major findings and importance of results
Professional Appearance of Poster
Overall Impression: poster organizations lead reader to the correct conclusions; excellent use of text and maps; poster neatness and graphical design enhances reader interpretation