Ronan van der Zee, March 2012
The examination committee draws up guidelines for the assessment of the Master Thesis project. The main reasons are:
- Accountability. The Examination Board is responsible for the quality of assessments within the Electrical Engineering program. Also, assessment standards are required for accreditation of the program.
- Harmonization. Proper assessment also means that students should be similarly assessed.
- Aid for teachers. It provides teachers with guidelines for the assessment, and it helps them to justify the final grade to the student.
- Aid for students. It helps students to know what is expected of them.
Starting point for the assessment standards are:
- The learning objectives as stated in Osiris.
- No long lists of hard to distinguish criteria. Therefore, the learning objectives are grouped into 3 categories that get a grade: scientific quality, organization and communication. This grouping still allows teachers to put emphasis where appropriate.
- Proposal for the weightings are: 50% Scientific quality, 20% Organization, 30% Communication.
The learning objectives from Osiris, now grouped:
50% Scientific quality:
- interpret a possibly general project proposal and translate it to more concrete research questions.
- find and study relevant literature, software and hardware tools, and critically assess their merits.
- work in a systematic way and document your findings as you progress.
- work in correspondence with the level of the elective courses you have followed.
- perform original work that has sufficient depth to be relevant to the research in the chair.
20% Organisation, planning, collaboration:
- work independently and goal oriented under the guidance of a supervisor.
- seek assistance within the research group or elsewhere, if required and beneficial for the project.
- benefit from the guidance of your supervisor by scheduling regular meetings, provide the supervisor with progress reports and initiate topics that will be discussed.
- organize your work by making a project plan, executing it, adjusting it when necessary, handling unexpected developments and finish within the allotted number of credits.
- write a Master thesis that motivates your work for a general audience, and communicates the work and its results in a clear, well-structured way to your peers.
- give a presentation with similar qualities to fellow-students and members of the chair.
Starting point for the grade normalization is:
- The official meaning of the numbers: 1: very bad, 2: bad, 3: very insufficient, 4: insufficient, 5: almost sufficient, 6: sufficient, 7: amply sufficient, 8: good, 9: very good, 10 : excellent
- The research conducted in the chair. A master thesis should be state-of-the-art, and only a chair in that field can determine if it is.
- The ‘first version’ of the report. To avoid grading the suggestions of the supervisor, the ‘first version’ is graded. In practice there is not a single first version, of course, but the amount of work that goes into suggestions and corrections gives a good indication of how good the ‘first’ version is.
Some nuance: a Master thesis project is considered to be embedded in the research of a chair. The daily supervisor from the chair has the role of both supervisor and assessor. If the research goes well, there is a stimulating interaction between supervisor and student, and the individual contributions of each are not strictly distinguishable. Nevertheless, the amount of supervision that is necessary to arrive at a good result can be taken as an indicator of the quality of the work.
The following examples try to make the grading more concrete:
4: there are errors or omissions that could have easily been prevented by using standard theory at the level of (elective) master courses.
5: there are errors or omissions that could have been prevented by using standard theory at the level of the (elective) master courses.
6: work has been done at the level of the elective courses, but this has not led to new insights.
7: work has been done at the level of the elective courses, and this has had a clarifying effect in the area of the assignment.
8: work has been done at the level of the elective courses, and additional (fundamental) theory has been used from literature/external sources. Regarding the topic of the assignment, new insights have been gained that are useful in the chair’s current research. Maybe (in time) publishable.
9: theoretical treatment goes beyond the level of the elective courses, and/or cross-disciplinary insights have been used. The result is very useful for research in the chair and can (eventually) be used for a non-trivial publication.
10: Brilliant results. The beginning of a new research theme in the chair.
4: The supervisors have tried to give guidance to the process, but this has apparently been ignored by the student.
5: The supervisors have tried to give guidance to the process, but the student has not picked this up.
6: Significant guidance has been necessary, and the supervisors have had to raise these issues before action was taken.
7: Guidance has been necessary, but this has been sought by the student.
8: The student showed a lot of initiative, was able to adjust his/her own schedule and figured out most practical issues by him/herself.
9: The supervisors are happy that they were allowed to be involved in this assignment.
10: The supervisors themselves have learned something.
4: The report was essentially written by the supervisors. The supervisors did not recognize the work in the presentation.
5: Several report versions have been necessary. The first version was unacceptable. Presentation was badly structured.
6: Several versions of the report have been necessary to arrive at an acceptable result. The first version needed substantial corrections. The presentation made sense to the supervisors, but others had a hard time following it.
7: The first version of the report needed only minor corrections in structure and was already quite readable. The presentation was a valid representation of the work.
8: The first version of the report was well structured. Some changes were required in formulations, charts, etc. The presentation was enjoyable for both experts and others.
9: The first version of the report was very readable and only marginal corrections were needed. The presentation gave new insights to both experts and non-experts.
10: The first version of the report can serve as teaching material or a publication. The presentation was pure entertainment, while leaving everybody feeling that they learned a lot.