Assessment Standards Master Thesis Project Electrical Engineering
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.