Strategic Use of Student Presentations

Students master and retain learning quite effectively when they present their work to others. Anecdotally, we each can remember details within a school presentation made many years ago. Regardless of the discipline area, your students will likely benefit from making presentations also - that is, as long as sound practices are followed.

First, remember that the number 1 fear of adults is public speaking, so your students, whatever their age, are likely to need a great deal of reassurance to be successful. One key form of reassurance, which many professors overlook, is providing students with an adequate overview of the assignment. As a result, students commonly make unfocused, disjointed presentations which contribute to their feelings of inadequacy. A series of such presentations makes managing classroom time problematic, leading to some students not having enough time to make their presentations. Well in advance therefore, students should be provided, in writing, the goals and objectives of the presentation, as well as a detailed rubric, which will be used to guide evaluation. A model rubric appears in The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success.

If your course has an especially large enrollment and/or if building teamwork is an especially desirable goal, you might consider having students make presentations in a group setting, e.g. as a member of a forum or panel discussion. This also relieves much of the anxiety, because presenting to a small group is less frightening than presenting to a large group, particularly if this subset of the class has been working together on various projects through the semester.

If yours is an introductory course and/or students voice considerable anxiety, provide coaching in techniques of presenting effectively and consistently model excellent presentation skills for them, being explicit about what you're modeling. Techniques of gaining viewers' attention, effectively utilizing visual aids and powerfully concluding a presentation should be emphasized. At the time the assignment is explained, have a student with a proven track record in another professor's class demonstrate effective presentation skills. Or, show and explain a video of an excellent presentation. A final, but far less desirable option is for the professor to deliver a presentation him- or herself, emphasizing in advance the key points which students should observe. Some students would likely have difficulty objectively separating such a presentation from regular lecture or demonstration, while others might view such a presentation as the model and work so hard to duplicate it that they appear unnatural.

Having your students present their ideas in a supportive environment markedly increases their retention of material, while fostering increased self-efficacy.

Shop on line at or Barnes & Noble to get your copy of Dr. Lyons' book, The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the College Classroom.

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