What are some ways to evaluate GIS final projects?

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    Diana Sinton

    “Final Projects” are pretty common elements of GIS courses. I change my approach to grading these rather frequently, and I’ve never been fully satisfied that I’ve struck it right.  I’m interested in strategies to evaluate these, including rubrics and other approaches that can be employed.  Here’s one from Utah State, and something shared on SERC for a geoscience-based GIS class.  I wouldn’t call this a rubric per se, but here is an example of a well-detailed final project, from the Universityof Regina (pdf).  This Penn State GIS course has a fairly broad rubric that covers both “modules” (seem lab-like) and the final project.

    When students are graded in part on the presentations they make of their final projects, which are both a combination of maps and a written narrative, it can become as unimaginative as noting whether north arrows are present in their maps.

    What are some effective, clever, and creative ways that you evaluate GIS final projects?  Do you make any explicit connections with assessment of student learning?



    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



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