Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A New Approach to Student Presentations

It's strange how these things happen. I expend all this energy integrating technology and applying the Chllenge Based Learning model to my social studies classes this school year, yet my biggest break through may have been something tangential to these pursuits. I have required presentations to the class about these projects. Reorienting the requirements has produced some very pleasing results.

First, a confession: Like many of us, from time to time I have assigned students to "research" this or that and then "present" it to the class. To often, this produces a mortified kid trying to memorize information so that she can disgorge it to her bored, captive audience. Even worse, the student will try to read the information via note cards or her power point. And trust me, the situation can go even further south if you ask this student a question about what he or she has just rattled off. Dazed and confused.

I've tried a different approach with the challenge projects, using instructions like the following:

Each group will make a slide presentation describing their group process, what they learned, and what they hope they achieved by their solution to the challenge.

Group Process -- This includes the mistakes the group made. Wrong turns, rejected ideas, etc. They are also welcome to explain what they might have tried to do with more time or in retrospect.

What They Learned -- They are urged to address this broadly. What they learned may have involved group dynamics, technology tools, how to request an interview, etc.

What They Hoped to Achieve by Their Solution -- This is so much more interesting to listen to than a report on retrieved information, and like the other requirements, it helps them to see their experience as more than a checklist they completed for the teacher.

In addition, groups are told that all members must participate and that under no circumstances will they be allowed to read. I encourage them to be casual and to narrate the group's story.

I admit that not every group project effort has been a raging success this school year (More on that in another post). But I can honestly attest that all of the presentations have been interesting and invariably classmates have paid close attention. Not bad, eh?

"WhatUp Gov Challenge Based Project group.


WillKnott said...

Not bad at all, guv. And you have some high powered students in that picture. But I agree. The old way of doing this was far too often very painful. In fact, the only time I rally chanced it was in AP, when we used to have to continue the course after the national exam. The results were more often astounding than disappointing.

Larry Baker said...

Thanks, WillKnott. The AP students in the photo were a great group. But the "process" approach to presentations has worked equally well with younger students in the standard classes.

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