Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
||A Strategy for Teaching Oral Presentation Skills
||School of Geography, Population and Environmental Management, The Flinders
University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia
||+61 8 8201 2386
||+61 8 8201 3521
Teaching students the ability to communicate is acknowledged to be a central objective of university education. The oral presentation of research findings by students represents an internationally used device by which skills in spoken communication are developed and tested. Often, however, presentations are demanded from students with little preliminary advice being provided on the keys to effective oral presentation.
I have developed a strategy for teaching oral communication skills which comprises five components: fear reduction, critical observation of professional speakers, video-tape and written guidance, student presentations, and adoption of an appropriate form of assessment (sometimes involving peer assessment). The teaching-and-learning strategy also includes the provision to students of guidelines for preparing and delivering an effective talk.
- Reducing fear: One of the most common human fears is the fear of speaking in public. It is helpful to break down this fear gradually and to simultaneously provide guidance in the 'art' of talking formally before a group. In efforts to reduce levels of 'fear', I first asked students to talk informally about work they have done. This is done while everyone is seated, thereby maintaining an informal air. Later, small groups of students contribute to group presentations before the rest of the class. Later in the academic year, each student makes their own, formal presentation before the whole class.
- Critical observation of professional speakers: Students are encouraged to pay careful attention to the style and manner of delivery of lectures and other talks they attend. These observations can then be used as the basis of in-class discussion of effective presentation skills. Those meetings can be used to generate assessment criteria for talks or to introduce and discuss previously established criteria (e.g. Hay, 1996).
- Video-tape and written guidance: In-class discussion of 'good' and 'bad' presentations is usefully accompanied by the screening of some of the many 'how to' videos which are available on the subject of public speaking. This is an appropriate time to provide written information on 'how to prepare for and deliver a good talk'.
- Student presentations: Student talks of up to twenty minutes are scheduled towards the end of the teaching semester. Carefully researched and delivered student presentations may be used as an examinable supplement to other material provided by academic staff. Thus, staff and students work towards educational goals while students are provided with the opportunity to practise vital communication skills. As examinable material, peer attendance at the talks is encouraged. Students are often shy about asking questions of their peers. That can be overcome by nominating particular students to lead the questioning as 'discussants'. It can be helpful if the discussants have early access to the paper associated with the talk.
- Appropriate form of assessment: Students can generate their own assessment criteria and engage in peer review of oral presentations or they can use (and modify) some of the pre-established oral presentation assessment criteria which exist (Hay, 1997).
- Hay, I. (1994) Justifying and Applying
Oral Presentations in Geographical Education, Journal of Geography in
Higher Education, 18 (1), pp.43-65.
- Hay, I. (1996) Communicating in Geography and the Environmental Sciences, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
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Page created 22 December 1997
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