Faculty Innovator: Rebekah Dement

1st January 2023

Collaborative Rubrics and Self-Evaluations are at the Heart of Students’ Academic Growth   

For nearly two decades, IU Southeast has hosted an annual student conference that highlights the best of students’ work from over 50 majors across campus. The chance to present their academic work to the public through projects, papers and posters provides invaluable experience, not to mention the prizes that are awarded in six categories.

In order to prepare students for this opportunity, a judging criteria rubric has been created through a collaborative effort between Rebekah Dement, Ph.D., IU Southeast Honors Program director and English lecturer, and the Honors Program students.

“I invite students to take part in course development through collaborative development of rubrics, and I allow multiple opportunities for students to apply our collaboratively constructed rubrics,” said Dement. “While I use this technique in many of my courses, my primary application has been the development of the IU Southeast student conference judge’s rubric.”

In 2020, Dement hosted an honors preparatory conference for those students planning to present at the IU Southeast student conference. The collaboratively constructed rubric was uploaded to Qualtrics software, and all attending faculty, staff, and students were asked to complete the rubric for each student presenter. Presenters were then given both quantitative and qualitative feedback from the submitted rubrics.

 “This allows students to develop a more in-depth understanding of the components of a successful academic conference presentation, and it allows us to collectively articulate some of the more general concepts within the judge’s rubric,” said Dement. “In addition to measurable growth in oral communication skills, students have grown in confidence. Further, and perhaps most importantly, they have learned to apply the continual processes of reflection, adjustment, and evaluation: these, in my opinion, are the hallmarks of lifelong learning.”

Data from practice presentations in 2021 revealed the impact of students applying what they learned from the practice evaluations. The average score for the first practice presentation was 16.73/20, and the average score for the final presentation was 17.93/20. Of the students choosing to give two practice presentations, the average score for the first presentation was 15.55/20, and the average score for the second presentation was 17.75/20.

Dement noted that “statistics is not my area of expertise, but this increase was enough to make me do a happy dance in my office!”

Dement is also proud that many of her students earned Outstanding Presentation awards at the 2021 and 2022 IU Southeast student conferences.

Student feedback overall has been positive with many reflecting on their experiences.

One student remarked, “through the course of these last two semesters, I went from being scared to raise my hand, to confident to speak in front of a large crowd. I take great pride in my growth thus far, and I know there is always room for improvement.  Thanks to the honors courses I have taken, I have found my confidence.” 

A lifelong learner, Dement considers self-reflection to be a cornerstone of effective teaching. She continually evaluates her own performance as an instructor and adjusts accordingly.

“I seek to provide students with practical skills they can apply in a wide range of contexts,” said Dement. “While I can’t know for sure if my students will give conference presentations after they leave my classes, I do know skills like self-reflection and effective oral communication will serve students well on whatever path they might take.”

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