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Benefits of Student Verbal Presentations to the Class
by Gilda Haber, PhD


Introduction
How class presentations were made
Purpose of making presentations
Caveats and some solutions
Evaluation Research
Conclusions of research and recommendations
Bibliography

Introduction

The writer- instructor asked individual students in two classes- one on one college campus, the other on a different college campus, to present an assignment to the entire class. Presentations were made prior to submitting the assignment for grading.

Students in class A, (total 23), English Composition, were 50% freshmen ages from 17 to early twenties at Montgomery College on the Rockville Campus, Maryland. Most of these students either did not work or had part-time non-professional jobs. Class A was required to compose four essays besides other writing assignments during the fall 2009. Prior to beginning each assignment, I asked students to submit their topics for approval so that they focused on a limited area, and selected a topic with research sources.

Students in class B (total 20), Business Communication, consisted of an evening class at the University of Maryland University College. This class was composed of 99% professionals, full-time employees, or members of the armed U.S. service, aged 21-45. Class members were largely high- technical-work-experienced evening students. These students, too, needed instructor approval for each of their 9 written assignments.

In both classes, oral presentation consisted of individual students presenting their assignments, along with graphic representations projected on a screen, to the entire class.

The instructor gave students in both classes an outline, prior to students beginning the assignment. The outline included the basics of an article and or composition: name of the assignment, a title, student-instructor-class identification, an abstract, main point, purpose, target audience, definition of key terms, introduction, discussion with documentation of sources including graphic representation and interpretation, a critique of sources, conclusion, recommendations where relevant, and a bibliography.

After approving each student's topic and written draft, I asked volunteers to present their work to the class. I began with volunteers so that students comfortable with public presentation could pave the way for those less comfortable with public speaking. Allowing the latter to see and hear others making presentations, I reasoned, would hopefully overcome hesitations of those shy about making public verbal presentation. In no case was a student required to give a class presentation, however, by the end of the semester, 95% had done so. The presentation itself was not graded, though a report on the benefits and caveats and presenters' own experience in using presentations as a learning tool was requested and readily submitted.

Students for whom English was a second language did not, as expected, have a problem in making a verbal presentation. Some of the best presentations came from such students. Although many people fear speaking in public, tt appears to be unrelated to one's first language. Perhaps it is more related to a fear of making a mistake in public. I do recall feeling that I was making a very bold step, taking a big risk when at the age of 18, I made my first public statement during an inter-college debate--after my point was accepted by the group, I overcame my fear of public speaking.

Taking that first leap into the public world may pave the way to public speaking. Learning verbal behavior via oral communication to groups is vital as a learning tool. Carbone (2009)

How class presentations were made

Beginning with those who volunteered to give their presentations, presenters were asked to introduce themselves to the class, and to present a title and discussion of their topic on the board. Students were given a diagrammatic outline of each assignment. I also asked students to present and interpret graphics accompanying their assignment, using the projector to portray their work to the instructor and to the class, on-screen.

I also advised students as to how to make eye contact with and project their voices so as to gain full audience engagement and interaction. This guidance proved to be successful, as will be demonstrated.

I invited the class as audience to ask the presenter questions and make constructive comments. Students were trained in how to make constructive comments as to how work could be improved, or omissions included. (EHS note-do you have a reference you could add here?) If the class audience did not cover some points, I asked the presenter or the class questions and filled in omissions.

In the beginning, no time limit was set, but since time became a factor in allowing as many students as possible to present their work to the class, students were advised that in real life situations, such as in a work or conference setting, meeting coordinators would set time limits for each presenter. At first, a class member timed presenters, but as in a real-world situation, presenters were finally given responsibility for limiting themselves to 10 minutes including questions and comments. Although short, due to the large numbers who wished to present their material, timed presentations mirror real-life situations such as company, regional or national meetings.

Purpose of making presentations

The purpose of having students make oral and visual presentations to the entire class, versus submission of assignments only to the instructor, or only to one peer, was to demonstrate and evaluate the benefits of such presentations. Arguments in favor of trying the method as a learning tool for writing and for verbal communication were:

  1. Verbal presentation by individual students constituted an opportunity to increase, improve and provide alternate methods of learning in the classroom besides lecture, visual presentations, visiting speakers, and peer review of assignments by one or two peers. (Most instructors use one peer. When I hold peer group reviews, I use groups of 3-4 for more exposure. Haber 2008)

  2. Each student would have the benefit of the entire class's feedback and expertise, not only that of the instructor or a small group of peers. Total class-instructor feedback is not available when assignments are submitted only to one peer. The single peer may lack skills needed to give feedback, though I, personally, assign an advanced to a less-advanced student for peer review. (Haber 2008)

  3. The presenter's peers and instructor would have the opportunity to ask the presenter questions regarding his report, helping the presenter to clarify unclear statements and the class to offer constructive suggestions.

  4. By presenting an assignment in class, the student presenter could receive immediate feedback from all peers and the instructor, so that the presenter could make changes before submitting a final draft for grading.

  5. Students could utilize and apply their training in critical thinking and on how to give constructive feedback. Students would learn to think for themselves, rather than having the instructor doing all their thinking for them. The instructor would moderate, fill in omissions or correct errors.

  6. Adult, experienced working students are often especially skilled in someareas and could provide added information to students giving oral reports.

  7. Class members would participate more actively in discussion, see each other face-to-face instead of seeing other students from the back only, and would come to know other class members, bond and help each other.

  8. Hearing others' reports would make the class more interesting than receiving feedback and a grade from the instructor alone.

  9. The class would gain insight into (and perhaps provide) new areas of information. For instance, one student presented an assignment on bird collision with airplanes, another, on the papilloma virus in college women, and how to control it, another compared breast cancer in Caucasian and African American men and women. These topics inform other students in content areas they may not know about, and or, can contribute to.

  10. Students would more often complete the assignment when knowing they will be "on-stage." Many students would enjoy public presentations and using the blackboard and projector. This activity would provide a change of pace, and certainly more physical activity needed in three-hour classes.

  11. Students listening to themselves speak and presenting their work out loud, could critique themselves while addressing a live audience, aiding impromptu revisions.

  12. Students practicing oral presentations to a classroom would gain excellent preparation and skills for future professional meeting/conference assignments in the workplace.

  13. With repeated public verbal presentations to a non-threatening audience such as peers in a classroom, students would increase skills and confidence in oral plus written assignments.

  14. Knowing that one is due to give a public presentation would increase the student likelihood of coming prepared.

Caveats and some solutions

  • Problem: The topic should be pre-approved by the instructor so as to be focused and based on primary or secondary available data.
    Solution: Topic must be approved by the instructor prior to class presentation for suitability to class material and with a uniform rough outline provided by the instructor for the report's organization, with some flexibility.

  • Problem: The process could be time-consuming if all members report on the same day. In one-hour classes, only a few can present work to the class.
    Solution: Limit the time for oral reports and have presenters time themselves which prepares students for real life timed-meeting situations. Or limit the number of oral reports per session.

  • Problem: Shy students are afraid to speak in public.
    Solution: Do not insist on having shy students reporting verbally. However, ask if they are willing to spend one minute to become used to facing the audience. By exposing oneself to this experience, and watching other students report, students usually overcome fear and shyness. Foreign students give oral reports just as well as native English speakers, so language is not the issue.

  • Problem: Getting equipment: Verbal presentation works best with technical support such as a projector, and access to illustrated on-screen presentations (Derrick 2006).
    Solution: Educational institutions need to provide technical support i.e. projectors and access to internet. Most institutions do have technical support.(Derrick 1998, 2006)

Evaluation Research

The instructor tested class responses to giving individual presentations of an assignment to the class. Responses were anonymous unless students wished to give their names.

The instructor tested class responses to giving individual presentations of an assignment to the class. Responses were anonymous unless students wished to give their names.

(1) Method

Toward the end of the semester, the instructor presented each of the two classes with a simple open-ended questionnaire. I then taught class B, the Business Communication class, to perform a Content Analysis on both classes.

A Content Analysis consists of reading written responses to open questions, classifying responses into several categories and counting how many times respondents made that particular response. A Content Analysis is used when little research about a subject is available, and may be the basis for future questionnaire construction with "yes" or "no" answers.

A total of 34 students in classes A and B answered the following three, simple questions in class.

  1. What are the benefits of verbal presentation by students to class?
  2. What are the caveats, i.e. drawbacks
  3. Suggestions for improvement of this method of teaching
(2) Results

Although the make-up of the two classes differed considerably regarding age, experience, time of day and campus, responses were so similar, that the author combined the two classes' responses.

The following findings represents a Content analysis of 34 student responses from classes A and B to the above three questions.


Number of Responses
#
Percent of total responses
%
A. Interaction with other students.
Encourages class participation.
Allows class questions, feedback.
Great learning experience
42 36
B. Repeated verbal class presentation
and feedback improves public
presentation/assignment experience.
Good for work skills.
21 19
C. Exposes students to other points of
view re own, and others' assignments.
Allows interaction with immediate
insights and suggestions from Professor
18 15
D. Increases effectiveness of presentations.
Using verbal and graphic presentations.
Timed: allows immediate changes to
work: trains students in conciseness
16 14
Total Responses 116 100

Conclusions from Research and Recommendations

If A and B class responses are combined, 55% of students responded voluntarily that oral presentation of assigned reports by individual students to the entire class is beneficial as a learning and social classroom tool. Twenty percent responded that students learned new material from others' reports. Nearly 30% said that public presentations enabled students to increase interaction and to receive immediate feedback instead of having to wait, from a wide range of peers and from the instructor, and that these benefits allowed revision of work before submission for a grade.

These were responses that students thought of themselves, rather than suggested responses to a "yes" "no" questionnaire or a scale of high to low agreement. "Yes" or "No" responses can be used next time, and will elicit far higher support for this learning tool, and furnish the basis for a simpler and more quickly quantifiable questionnaire.

No suggestions were made outside of three recommending time limits. Ninety-nine percent of responses favored live, oral presentation of assignments to the entire class and to professors as a valuable tool for learning written and oral communication.

Oral communication is a major part of Class B, i.e. Business Communication training, in which many students are managers, and at some point have or will make public verbal presentations. This experience is a good tool for freshmen entering the work force.

Oral communication to an audience is a useful tool in all classes across the board of education, (Derrick 2006) and in all work and other environments. One learns by doing.

The writer, in teaching a diverse class on world comparative literature asked students whose first language was Hebrew, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, Hindi, Chinese, Greek and those from an American Indian and African tribe, to present a poem or short piece of literature on a screen with translation, as well as orally--sometimes in song accompanied by guitar-- to the rest of the class. This was a wonderful way of transmitting other cultures' literature to the class. (Haber 2006).

Student verbal presentations should be encouraged as one among other tools such as lecturing, class discussion, peer group feedback, visual presentations and visiting speakers. Instructors should give prior approval of topic, an outline if desired, limit time for presentation, exempting, while encouraging shy students to present briefly, and having available technical support.

Bibliography

Carbone, Vincent J., (2009) Applied Behavior Analysis with an Emphasis on Verbal Behavior (ABA/VB), Tampa, Florida. Paper Presented.

Derrick, Joseph E., (2006) Tools for Student Engagement that Facilitate Development of Communication Skills, Technical Netherlands, Springer Publications.

Derrick, Joseph E. (1998) Proceedings of the 30th Conference on Winter Simulation, pp 1703-1706.

Haber, Gilda (2008 Spring). "The Benefits of Peer Review," Focus on Faculty, Montgomery College

Haber, Gilda (2006 October)"Sound of Literature in Diverse Languages Presented by Diverse Students." Focus on Faculty. Reprinted in ETNI, ESOL Teachers Association, ETNI Rag Israel, 2009

Huntingdon, Charles D. Harrington, (2009) "College Method., Writing Communication Skills are Vital to Student Verbal Presentation Leading Tool Method," Southern Association of Colleges Conference Proceedings.

McDonald, R. Heather, (2006) Teaching Strategies, Carleton College, Professional Communication Projects ask students to effectively communicate scientific information in a genre that professional scientists are expected to master, such as with scientific posters, conference proposals or oral presentations. Compiled by Colleen H. Fava and Darrell Henry, Louisiana State University.

Normandy, Elizabeth, (2007) "Let Students Participate Actively ," Teaching and Learning Center, www.all allacademic.com p/ 2796-98-index.htl

Sammons, Martha, (May 1995) "Student Classes Computer-aided Class Presentations," Journal Online

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