January Peer Evaluation

Groups give formal presentations, including PowerPoint presentations, but not poster displays, at this time. If in a class, students are given credit if they bring an adult (mom, dad, neighbor, scientist, etc.) to help judge. Invite previous students who are home from college at break. Invite the school principals. Fellow students can also attend. Everyone is given a brief evaluation sheet with space for comments. The evaluations are numerical and everyone totals their scores. This becomes the group's grade for the project for that semester, if the students are in a class.

Students must dress professionally; they will practice diction, speaking loudly enough, gestures, etc. They are given pointers for their PowerPoint presentations. They must defend their positions through a question and answer session at the end of their presentation. Students can be taught how to graciously indicate that they did not consider some things and that it is OK to just say they don't know. One purpose of peer review is to generate collective ideas, which may not have initially been considered by the team.

Evaluations are made on the presentation and on a written interim report which must include a complete bibliography. English teachers can help grade the report. Sometimes a parent who is a technical writer will also help with the papers. In each case the January peer review is a compilation of all of the evaluations given for the paper. No paper or presentation is graded by just one person, but at least by three others.

Anita Gerlach first proposed this event to the Challenge community. Here is how she describes it:

I initiated the peer review many years ago. I ask students to bring in scientists, parents, etc and also have the students there. I have a rubric for judging which includes the topic, student knowledge of the topic, student dress, the powerpoint presentation, etc. The students present their projects just as they would in April, except they are interim, not final. They then are asked questions by the audience. Some parents are very aggressive - so be it. I also ask the audience to give constructive criticism, not destructive. Often a parent agrees to help the students with their presentation. The students receive all the feedback sheets, including one I fill out. I videotape them and let them watch themselves, as well. The presentations usually last about ten minutes with 5-10 minutes for questions. It is quite a "heads up" for them.