Oral presentations can be incorporated into your course in various ways and can be tailored to the content and needs of your course. Formats may include individual presentations, debates, small group presentations, speeches, and dramatic performances. In our observations of student oral presentations in Signature Courses, we found that the most successful presentations had many of the following qualities.
Students performed best when given clear written expectations and grading criteria well in advance of the presentation date. We also saw much stronger presentations for courses in which the instructor had set aside class time to teach basic presentation skills to students. We hope you will consider discussing not only what you want students to present but how they should present.
Many faculty members find it helpful for students to evaluate the oral presentations of their peers using a rubric. This helps students listen more closely to each speaker and gives them a better framework to plan their own presentations. For example peer rubrics, please download the documents generously submitted by Professor Hickenbottom and Professor Karboski.
Q&A sessions following individual or group presentations require presenters to think on their feet and to demonstrate more advanced mastery of content. Encouraging or requiring non-presenting students to ask questions of the presenters can increase class participation and engagement with the topics. Q&A sessions pair effectively with use of peer evaluation rubrics.
Some instructors give brief, immediate feedback to presenters, typically highlighting one or two strengths of the presentation and one area for improvement. This can help push students to a higher level of professionalism as they know they will hear feedback in front of their classmates. This approach can also benefit students who have not yet presented by giving them a tangible sense of what is expected.
Rising to the Challenge
We see students perform best when given challenging, thoughtful assignments that require creativity and autonomy. The strongest presentations require students to analyze and synthesize information rather than simply summarize.
Requiring your students to dress up can help elevate the quality and seriousness of their presentations.
If you have questions or would like assistance planning your oral presentation assignment, please contact our office.