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Papers, projects, presentations

Papers, projects, and presentations can be used to demonstrate students’ mastery of knowledge and their ability to analyze, apply, and synthesize course material.  Papers, projects, and presentations also allow for student creativity.  They require more effort by both the teacher and students, especially when it comes to grading.

Here are some suggestions for improving papers, projects, and presentations:

Before the students begin

  • Clear directions – Make sure your directions are clear by having a colleague review them.  Directions should include:
    • What the students can use as resources or references. 
    • How the students will be graded, including a rubric or checklist.
    • For papers, any methods you use to ensure unbiased grading, such as the use of a cover page or absence of personal identifiers in the paper.
  • Policies and procedures
    • Can the student rewrite the paper or re-do the project?
    • How much feedback can you give them during the creation process?  For example, can they send one section and receive feedback before writing other sections?  Can they review various parts of the project or presentation with you?
    • If you plan to have the project or presentation evaluated by someone other than you, ensure the students are aware of who and why you are using an outside evaluator.
    • Can the students view previous students’ papers or projects?

While grading


  • Consider having students review each other’s papers or projects prior to turning them into you. 
  • Ensure students understand that feedback should be used to improve upcoming work.  In order for students to use feedback, it should be given in a timely manner.
  • Think about having large, authentic projects or presentations evaluated by an expert panel.  For fairness, make sure the panel is familiar with the purpose, goals, and grading expectations of the project.
  • You might want to try a more convenient feedback mechanism, such as voice recording, Camtasia, or tablet PC.

Other considerations

  • Consider the purpose and validity of the large, traditional term paper in this day of the Internet. 
  • Make sure your students are aware of the services available at the Writing Center.
  • To make the paper, project, or presentation more interesting and, therefore, more motivating, have the students choose a topic of interest to them.  If students are unfamiliar with the writing or research process, you may have to guide them to a topic of suitable size and complexity.
  • To better guide the students and make the experience more authentic, have the students create their paper, project, or presentation for an outside audience, such as a CEO or Executive Board.
  • To make large papers or projects more manageable, consider having the students turn in a section at a time.

Need more information?

Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 06/20/2013
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