Wow. Monday’s come around so quickly.

This is the third and final week of blog posts for the Teachers Toolkit for Engagement series. We have looked through a number of activities teachers can use when teaching. These activities promote active learning and engage students.

They include:

Moving on to todays topic.

What was your favourite activity when you were in further or higher education? Was it the lectures? The reading? Practicals or student presentations?

The dreaded presentation!

Saying the word ‘presentation’ was enough to instil fear amongst students. It’s the public speaking aspect and being the focus of the room. Many don’t like that situation. It’s unnerving and, certainly in the beginning, it’s beyond many learners’ comfort zones.

However, student presentations are a mainstay of teaching and assessment. It’s a safe activity where learners can practice and hone their public speaking skills. Feedback will be given to help learners improve. Typically, these activities start off small or in groups. Learners: you are not alone!

Credit: Reimond De Zuniga
Credit: Reimond De Zuniga
What are student presentations?

This is generally the format of students presenting information verbally and/or visually to one or more people. The student, as presenter, are the focus of the room.

By tasking students with presentations, it helps focus learners. Presentations can be done in front of teachers, in front of peers or to a wider audience.

This method allows students to share what they have learned. A Q&A session can be offered to audience members after the presentation.  

How can presentations be used?

Student presentations can offer a variety of options. They can be anything from a one-minute summary at the start of class to recap the previous class. Or, they can be full blown conferences with pyrotechnics and other technology.

Presentation tasks can be set at the start of a course, giving learners plenty of time to plan, draft, rehearse and reiterate before delivery. Or, the task can be flash presentations. This is basically where students have little prep time before presenting to their audience.

Let’s look at a few presentation options.

Flash presentations

As a teacher, you can list numerous presentation titles on strips of paper. These can be placed into a container. Students draw from the container and read presentation titles. Students will have a minute to prepare. The presentation itself should last one minute. It’s a two-minute exercise.

One rule need be applied. When drawing from the title options, students can return one title, but they must do a presentation on the next title drawn.

What about the other students?

Non-presenting students can give peer feedback on evaluation forms. These forms will include questions regards the presenters’ content knowledge and delivery. Engaging other students in this way ensures focus among peers.

Flash presentations are designed to assist learners in quick thinking and planning skills. Titles for presentations will be from previously taught content.

Credit: Matthew Osborn
Credit: Matthew Osborn
Elevator pitches

Where flash presentations are short and unplanned, elevator pitches can last 5 to 10 minutes. These are more structured and time limited.

For example, Pecha Kucha is one such type of elevator pitch presentation. The premise of the Pecha Kucha is the presentation contains only 20 slides. Each slide lasts for only 20 seconds.

The whole presentation is 6 minutes 40 seconds in length. AND, there’s no text allowed on the slides. It’s purely visual with relevant imagery. Learners present verbally.

As a presentation method, the Pecha Kucha style hones communication skills. It helps with time management and removes extraneous waffle that can creep into longer presentations. This presentation type focuses learners to be concise.

Six minutes and forty seconds isn’t much time to get crucial information across. If this was a business case to a client or the bank, presenters need to prioritise and include the important information.

For more information on the Pecha Kucha style, DigiKnow wrote a blog post on Pecha Kucha, What is it? This was in February 2020.

Credit: Product School
Credit: Product School
Formal presentations

If presentations are used for assessment purposes, students need more time to prepare. This could be several weeks. Students may know their presentation theme at the beginning of the course.

A date for presentations will be specified, as will presentation length. Exceeding the allotted time can result in losing marks.

Presentations can be for individuals or group work. Presentations by individuals increase the time requirement. Albeit, group presentations save time, they also show off team work and other skills.

As these presentations are more formal in nature, presenters need to dress accordingly. This provides a taste of presenting in real-world scenarios.

Non-presenting students will be focused on presentations and completing peer evaluation forms. Audience members will also have opportunity to ask questions after the presentation has closed.

Credit: Alexandre Pellaes
Credit: Alexandre Pellaes
Pros and cons of presentations

When students were asked about evaluating presentations, non-presenting students strongly agreed completing peer evaluations for current presenters made them focus more on the content being presented. It also refined their expectations for presenting themselves.

Other advantages include:

  • Students are more engaged.
  • Presenting students take ownership of their learning.
  • Improves public speaking skills. The more you speak, the more relaxed you are.
  • Presentations can be used in formative or summative assessment.

In the worst-case scenario, students read their content verbatim from the presentation. They don’t engage their audience and nerves get the better of them. However, with practice, they will improve.

Other disadvantages include:

  • The time needed for presentations
Tips for students doing presentations
  • Dress code. Are you appropriately dressed for the context of your presentation?
  • Speak clearly and look at your audience during delivery.
  • Structure your presentation and present the main points.
  • Focus on the verbal content rather than the text on your slides.
  • Use images on your slides, a relevant image can be thought-provoking.
  • Visual aids such as charts can illustrate findings and illustrate your point.
  • If using text, limit text to 3 bullet points. Too much overwhelms the audience.
  • Create cue cards. You can refer to these whilst you present.
  • Detailed handouts can be provided for audience members.
  • Summarise the main points on the last slide.
  • Ensure the presentation finishes within the allocated time frame.
  • Allow time for Q&A after you have presented.  
Credit: Marcos Luiz
Credit: Marcos Luiz
To conclude

Having students present content to their class and teacher is a fantastic method of engaging students. It helps students learn content more deeply and gives students ownership of their learning.

Whether you’re a fan of presenting or sitting through presentations, this task certainly shows off knowledge and understanding. Presentations build confidence and can motivate learners to be specific, to check their sources and to speak publicly.

Next time

On Wednesday, we look at Think-Pair-Share as an activity to engage students in their learning. This is another tool to add in to the Teachers Toolkit for Engagement.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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