Tips for Assigning Oral Presentations
Oral presentations can be among the best part of a class, or they can be the absolute worst. While there are few guarantees in the world of teaching and learning, here are some tips to make success a more likely outcome for you and your students.
1. Plan Ahead. Oral presentations take time—time for you to communicate your expectations and offer at least basic instruction on techniques; time for the students to prepare and rehearse outside of class; and time for them to actually give the presentations in class. Insufficient time devoted to any of these three things is likely to mean disappointing results.
2. Be Clear with Yourself About Your Goals. Why are you assigning presentations? Do you want to help your students become better speakers? Have them share the results of their research with classmates? Make them responsible for doing some of the teaching? Encourage active learning? Stimulate discussion? Transform your class from a monologue to a multi-voiced dialogue? Give yourself a break during a period you know will be busy? Break the monotony of exams and papers?
All of these are legitimate goals, and while they are not mutually exclusive, some require different planning and modes of evaluation than others. If you want to stimulate discussion and turn the class into a multi-voiced dialogue, for instance, you need to allow plenty of time for conversation afterwards and might want to have just one or two presentations a day. If your goal is instead for them to share research findings, it might be appropriate to schedule a number of presentations in the same class period.
3. Write a Clear and Complete Assignment. Writing the assignment out helps both you and your students. It forces you to articulate what you want and gives you something to return to when evaluating the presentations or pointing students to what might have been lacking in their performance. And having the written assignment gives students an authoritative document to return to for guidelines when they are preparing their presentations.
‘Clear’ and ‘complete’ means not assuming students know what you’re looking for but rather specifying all of the following in non-ambiguous ways:
Identify goals or aims of the presentation: spell out the purposes of the assignment and how it fits in with other course objectives. It is useful to put this right at the top of the assignment sheet under the heading ‘Purposes of this assignment,’ followed with a short list of 2-5 aims such as:
- to allow students to share their research with their classmates.
- to display skills of summarizing and condensing lengthy material.
- to gain practice translating technical journal articles into oral communication suitable for a lay audience
- to build upon concepts from the first unit of the course
- to give students an opportunity to set the agenda for group discussion.
Establish a reasonable time length: a specific range (e.g. 3-5, 8-10, or 15-20 minutes) is usually better than ‘about 5 minutes’ both because it reduces ambiguity and it encourages students to rehearse their presentation ahead of time.
Clarify all parts of the assignment: include both the steps leading into the presentation as well as the required components of the speech itself. One can require students to have their topic approved by you and hand in a working outline of the presentation, as well as a bibliography, several periods before they speak. On the day of the presentation, have the students turn in a formal, full-sentence outline along with the notes they use to speak from. You can ask them to bring a cassette tape to record their presentation and then hand in a self-evaluation during the next class period. They receive points for all of these parts.
For the presentation itself, be clear about what you expect: clear organization (introduction, body, and conclusion)? Supporting evidence or quotations from the text?A certain number of outside sources? A visual aid or handouts?
Highlight relevant due dates: specify due dates for both the different parts of the assignment and for the presentation itself. For the latter, decide who will give their presentations on what day (or let them choose).
Detail criteria for evaluation:exactly what will they be graded on? You might hand out the evaluation form you will use, or just make a list of criteria at the bottom of your assignment. Some possible criteria include:
- a clear pattern of organization (intro, body, conclusion, transitions).
- an effective delivery (eye contact, appropriate rate/tone/volume/gesture/ appearance).
- meeting time constraints (too long or too short typically means the presentation was not sufficiently rehearsed).
- a speech that is tailored to the audience (assumes proper level of knowledge, is absent inappropriate jargon).
- an incorporation of outside research or concepts from the course.
- the appropriate use of visual aids.
- evidence of independent thought or creativity.
- a presentation stimulates class discussion.
- the speaker displays knowledge during question and answer session.
- overall communication (speaks with the audience—not at them).
4. Prepare Students for Success. Once you have determined the goals, component parts, and criteria for the assignment, you can move students toward success in three ways. First, discuss the relevant techniques they will need to use—from how to select a good topic to research, adapting to your audience, using appropriate language for oral communication, and raising productive discussion questions.
Second, show good and/or bad models of these techniques. You can do this through your own speaking, by the use of videos, or by drawing attention to good examples in your students (teaching from bad student examples is a trickier business).
Third, give them opportunities to practice. The best kinds of practice involve students getting to do more than one evaluated presentation. If this is not possible, give them in-class or at-home practice opportunities. You can use peer groups here—one-on-one or small group exercises—or you could require them to tape record a rehearsal of their presentation at home and evaluate it before they give it in class.
5. Evaluate the Presentations to Help Them Improve. While giving an oral presentation in itself can be good practice, evaluating student efforts and giving them a grade can help even more. This means that you need to develop a plan for grading them.
You can use a formal evaluation sheet that includes a list of the criteria and room for written comments at the bottom. For the list, you can give students a check, plus, or minus (fine, excellent, or needed work) for each criterion with brief comments on the reasons for such a mark.
Try to put the criteria in roughly the same chronological order as the speech itself will be given (e.g. introduction at the top, Q/A toward the bottom) and fill most of this part of the evaluation sheet out as the student speaks.
Take copious notes during the speech, but make certain to grade the speech soon after the presentation, otherwise the memory of the speech will slip.
Also, use the formal outline the students turn in; it makes following the speech and developing pointed comments much easier. Students respond best when you include positive comments along with constructive ones.
Rubrics often provide comfort to students concerned about how their oral performances will be evaluated. They also assist instructors in grading speeches consistently.
Environmental Science 100
Group Presentation Assignment
Students will work in groups of 3-4 to research and present one position on a controversial environmental issue. Another group will be presenting an opposing position during the same class period. There will be no written report for this assignment, but there will be a few written components to the project. The entire project is worth 20% of your grade.
Group membership and instructions can be found under the Group Project link on the class web page. Each group will turn in a series of assignments during the development of your project. The due dates are designed to keep your group on task through the project. (No pulling overnighters for this one!) Note the date your project is scheduled. Each assignment is due relative to that date. All assignments (except the Powerpoint presentation itself) will be turned in to me by email. Put your group name (including pro or con) in the subject line as well as in the assignment.
1. Preliminary works cited. Select at least four references your group thinks will be useful. Cite them by MLA standards (as taught in Engl 102, see also guidelines below). Indicate which references are from peer reviewed journals (see below).Submit your Preliminary Works Cited by email. For online resources, include a link to the work with its citation. For print resources, turn in a photocopy of the first page of each reference with your group name attached.
2. The annotated bibliography consists of your group’s finalized works cited with a summary of each reference. Your summaries should be at least 3 sentences in length, including some of the critical information you use from each source. Again, indicate which references are from peer reviewed journals. Include links or turn in first page copies of any new articles.
3. Executive summary. In presenting your position, summarize the major points and cite your evidence. The text should be at least one page (single-spaced), and can be as long as three. Include your works cited at the end. (Include all references used in presentation, even if not all are cited in your summary.) These will be posted on the class web page for others to study.
4. Presentation. Assign part of the oral presentation to each group member. Following an introduction to the topic by your instructor (see web site for text of background so you don’t duplicate it), each group will be allowed 15 minutes to present their position to the class. The pro group will present first, the con group second. When both groups have made their presentations, each group will be allowed 2 minutes to summarize their position or address points made by the opposition. Discussion will be invited following presentations. Each group will use PowerPoint during their presentation, and include both text and visual aids. Cite your references in your text when specific evidence (such as data or quotes) is presented. When using photos or other figures, credit the source as well. I will do a PowerPoint demonstration in class early in the quarter. Aim for about 15 slides. Each group member must present to receive the presentation points.
5. Write four multiple choice exam questions based on your presentation. Indicate the correct answer. Be considerate of your classmates; don’t ask esoteric questions, or give choices difficult to differentiate (e.g. mercury emissions were reduced by 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%). Submit your questions by email. I will use at least one of your questions, but reserve the right to edit them.
Timeline and evaluation
Preliminary reference list and links to or copies of each article
two weeks before presentation
one week before presentation
one class day before presentation
see sign-up date
one class day after presentation
one week after presentation
Assignments turned in late will be worth 10% less each class day it is late.
Each class member will evaluate each group, including your own, which will count for 25% of the presentation grade.
Guidelines for References
You must use at least four references for your presentation; use more if you like. Authors of your references should be authorities on some aspect of your topic. They would include, for example, scientists who did primary research, professionals giving opinions based on professional experience, or journalists who interview several authorities. At least two of your references should be peer-reviewed (critiqued by other experienced professionals), or from scholarly journals, most easily available to you through ProQuest or Ebsco. Many other sources are available to you, including books and journals from the library, web sites, people (for expert information, not for opinions), and your textbook. CQ Researcher provides a good overview of many of our topics. It is not, however, a peer-reviewed journal. I can help you choose some of your references. Reference librarians and other faculty may be useful in directing you to references as well.
The internet will likely be a good source for you, but choose your web sites carefully! Many journal articles you find in print are also available online (and easier for you to get your hands on). These are equally valid in print or online. Remember, however, that any individual can “publish” anything they like on the web, without review by an editor or by peers. Do not use:
· any web site not backed by a valid publisher, academic institution, government agency, or reputable organization.
· blogs (unless from a reputable organization – I will evaluate individually)
· web sites posted as class projects by other students
When in doubt, ask me if a web site or article is appropriate.
Citing your references
Sources of information used for your presentations must be given credit. Your group will turn in both a preliminary list of references, as well as an annotated bibliography. Cite your references in the text of your PowerPoint presentations when specific evidence is given, and include your works cited in the last slide.
Each source in your works cited list will be formatted by MLA standards. Some examples are given below. Help can be found at the Centralia College Library and the WritingCenter. The website Knightcite http://www.calvin.edu/library/knightcite/index.php will format citations for you. Strongly recommended!
Example: Article from Journal
Becker, L. J. and Seligman, C. “Welcome to the energy crisis.” Journal of Social Issues 37.2 (1989): 1-7.
When citing an appropriate internet source, refer to guidelines Centralia College Library web page http://library.centralia.ctc.edu/mlaelectronic.pdf.
Example: Article from online version of a newspaper
Ernst, Steve. “KittitasValley Wind Project Generates Local Opposition.”Puget Sound Business Journal 23.15 (Aug 16, 2002): 10. ProQuest. CentraliaCollegeLib., WA. 20 September 2004. <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb>.
The general format is:
Author Last Name, First Name. “Title.” Organization. Date of access. <URL>.
If an article you want to use does not give you this information (author’s name, publication date and journal), you should not use it as a reference for a research paper.
Help is also available for organizing and citing references at the WritingCenter in Kemp 105. Be sure to bring this description of the assignment with you.
· Include key words or phrases in your visual presentation – not entire sentences or paragraphs.
· Do not read your presentation. Use your visual presentation or note cards to cue yourself.
· Practice your presentation! It will go smoother and you will be less nervous if you’ve run through it before. Do this with your group so you coordinate your story and have people to act as an audience and give you feedback.
· Don’t spend too much time on tricky or fancy graphics or animations. Your visual presentation should function to clarify what you say, not entertain your audience or distract them from the content.
· You will be graded on both content and clarity of communication.
Working in a group
Merge all your work and turn in one copy of each assignment for the entire group. Your work should appear and sound as if one person had done all the work. Coordination within groups is critical, since each group shares one grade. Make sure work turned in by your colleagues is up to your standards. If you fail to connect with your group in a timely fashion, you may forfeit the project and receive a zero for the entire project.
Group Presentation Assignment Topics
1. Should the United Statesweaken the Endangered Species Act? (Some issues to consider: whether humans should intervene in the natural process of extinction, rights of private landowners, scientific basis for listings, economics.)
Thursday, February 5
2. Is genetic engineering a wise technique to use in agriculture and food production? (Some issues to consider: increased food production, decreased or increased use of pesticides, food safety, labeling, intellectual property rights, ecosystem effects.)
Thursday, February 12
3. Should we be producing more biofuels to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? (Issues to consider: economics, impact on food supply and prices, impact on biodiversity, domestic vs. foreign production)
Tuesday, February 24
4. Should nuclear power be reconsidered as one of the primary sources of energy in the United States? (Some issues to consider: reactor safety, disposal of waste, source of fuels, air pollution, global warming.)
Tuesday, March 3
5. Should carbon offsets be promoted as a way to reduce global warming in the United States? (Some issues to consider: types of offsets, regulation of offsets, effectiveness, use of offsets vs. other means of reducing greenhouse gasses)
Thursday, March 5
Note: You do not need to personally support the position that you will be presenting. The objective is to exercise your research and critical thinking skills and participate in public debate on environmental issues.
Each student will evaluate each group (including ones own group) based on the following criteria.
Circle a number in each category for the entire presentation
position was well-argued
supporting evidence was well-documented
appropriate level for an introductory college-level science class
good use of visual evidence
addressed questions from other students well
balanced participation within group
good volume and clarity
visual presentation effective (text and figures)
smooth flow, well-practiced
ENVS& 100 Group Presentation
Checklist for your project – fill this in and show your instructor before proceeding!
Topic Name_________________________________________ qPro qCon
Presentation Day and Date ___________________________________________
Write in due date
Preliminary reference list and copies of each article first page