Presenting Projects Publicly as Summative Assessment

Creating opportunities for students to make their learning public can raise the stakes and broaden a course's horizons. In this video, one of Eric Mazur’s students and his teaching assistant introduce how they use a public project fair as the primary summative assessment in the class. At the fair, students demonstrate how their projects work to external judges and then answer questions about the design process and related class concepts. The result is an engaged public and motivated, proud students.


Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics

Student Group



School of Engineering and Applied Sciences


AP50 Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering

Group Size

60 students

  • Although having a public fair requires some logistical organization, it can serve many educative purposes. Not only does it motivate your students whose work is on display, but it can also be a powerful means of promoting problem-based teaching among the broader university community.

  • Aim to make the focus of the fair less about whether the project works or doesn’t work and more about the learning that occurred to arrive at the final product. In other words, emphasize the process over the product by making it the bulk of the criteria on which students are assessed.

  • Use a rotating 20-minute schedule during the fair so students have time to (a) get judged by the teaching team on the completeness of their project; (b) be interviewed by external judges on their design process and their understanding of the relevant class concepts; and (c) observe and participate in each others’ project demonstrations.

  • Jang notes that humans are collaborative and that experts use a number of resources when problem-solving. Contrasting this with typical summative assessments, the author argues in favor of more collaborative forms of assessment (2017).  These concepts could be extended to suggest that collaboration within a community of practice with professional and expert members beyond the classroom can motivate students when working on their projects. 
  • Embedding students in an authentic community of practice is supported by the principles behind situated learning (Greeno et al., 1993).
  • While constructivist learning theorists do not address showcasing projects in public directly, they do argue that all learning happens in context (Hausfather, 1996).