4 Ways to Produce High-Quality Presentations of Learning
Presentations have been a part of classrooms everywhere for centuries. In elementary school, you may have read book reports or short stories from the front of the class. In many classrooms today, presentations have become full-blown defenses of learning, portfolio presentations, and more.
While today’s students may be giving more presentations, not all are receiving guidance to build high-quality presentations. Most teachers assess the basics, such as eye contact or audience interaction, but for many, the skill-building stops there.
At iLEAD schools, learners conduct many Presentations of Learning per year. At the same time, they’re building a core 21st-century professional skill.
Here are four ways facilitators can help learners increase their presentation-building skills.
Understand the WHY of Presentations
Whether in business, government, entertainment or activism, the presentation is the foundation of how we communicate ideas and influence people. We don’t need to look further than TED Talks to understand the power of the presentation.
Educationally, we recognize that a high-quality, professional presentation is not only an ideal way to demonstrate learning, but it also increases important skills mastery in the Four Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication) and other essential competencies. Several standards in English Language Arts at all grade levels include effectively delivering presentations through communication, use of media and more.
In addition, many employers now expect job candidates to deliver some type of presentation. With the gig economy, many professionals need to continually go out and chase work, new clients or projects by delivering quality presentations.
Explicitly Teach Presentations
Many teachers assign presentations as part of lessons, units and projects. But we cannot simply assign presentations, communicate the content expectations and hope for the best. Yes, the content matters. But we also need to guide our learners in the delivery of these presentations. This includes facilitating their efforts to create the story, to design the visual aspects and to maximize available technology and media.
We need to explicitly teach presentation skills. Communication experts like Nancy Duarte, who publishes books, blogs and more to help corporate America deliver better presentations, can benefit learners.
We need to also assess learners with rubrics, such as this example from PBLWorks.
Finally, we need to provide many opportunities for students to practice presentations, receive feedback and have multiple opportunities to improve, especially before a public presentation.
Ultimately, presentations are stories. Telling a story involves methodology and writing techniques. For example, looking at story design through examples such as Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is a great way to demonstrate that presentations, like stories, have a very intentionally designed exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. High-quality presentations are not haphazardly designed but meticulously created. There are great resources out there, such as elevatorspeech.com, that include templates, checklists and worksheets to share with learners.
Without explicitly teaching visual design, at least to some foundational degree, many students will produce slides that are not visually appealing or graphically sound. Many of us have seen things like The Bad PowerPoint Examples online. These are perfectly acceptable to show students what not to do. The basic elements of high-quality design are not that complicated. Essentially, we’re looking for one point per slide, limited text, limited but powerful images (one great one vs. four mediocre ones), effective use of white space, authentic graphics, large vs. smaller text and avoiding bullet points. One of the best themes we can have our students adhere to is “less is more.” Again, experts like Nancy Duarte and others can expand on how to deploy effective design elements.
Teachers and students can benefit from focused learning on presentation pedagogy. This should be part of every educator’s professional learning, as well as every student’s curriculum. Our classrooms now have tremendous access to thousands of professional presentations on TED Talks, YouTube and more. Our students need to see how the pros do it and work to learn the techniques outlined above. Presentation skills are valuable and more important than ever in the global economy.