Guidelines for Great Presentations

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Guidelines for Great Presentations

Introduction

Don't Lecture - Engage!
Discovery Promotes Confidence
Success Motivates
Feedback Reinforces Learning
Keep Student Interest
Wait-Time Affects the Quality of Responses
Role Modeling
Closure
Tele-Mentoring over the Net

Don't Lecture - Engage!

Share the personal dimension of your scientific research work. As with any subject, it is important for students to feel a sense of personal involvement with science. As a working scientist, if you communicate your own feelings and emotional involvement in your work, and if you present the more technical content in this context, you will help motivate students to study science.

Let students know that they are important; acknowledge the significance of their own study and questions. Students learn more when they are treated with integrity, sincerity and openness. They will learn more science through positive interpersonal rapport between the scientist and student. One important finding in regard to helping others is that aloofness has a negative correlation with effectiveness. If students are treated as objects, the relationship becomes impersonal.

Effective communication is the idea that covers most of the important aspects of personalizing science. Take time to talk to the students. You must reciprocate by listening to the students and discussing topics that interest them. Listening unhurriedly, responsively, and empathetically will enhance your personal image with students. The message, "I care" comes through and it is always well received.

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Discovery Promotes Confidence

When presenting a problem to students, try to provide opportunities for the students to solve it themselves. Your role may include questioning, assisting, giving clues or hints at possible solutions, and suggesting new directions for solving the problem. The discovery process is an excellent motivator because it promotes a sense of self-confidence and confidence supports risk taking.

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Success Motivates

Few things motivate students like success. To use success as a motivator, design activities where students will have to expend an effort in an uncertain situation. The activity must be challenging, but not beyond achievement. The potential for success quickly becomes frustration when success is not achievable.

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Feedback Reinforces Learning

The amount, specificity and immediacy of feedback are critical in improving student motivation. Make the feedback specific like "your pipetting techniques are excellent," or "your question about the reliability of my data is an important factor to consider." Show the students respect for their abilities and concerns.

Feedback can be in the form of question and answer, which is prepared. Questions may be planned before class or may arise spontaneously because of student interaction. Before you devise your questions consider the following:

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Keep Student Interest

Utilize the students' interest in themselves. Almost any lesson can be related to some facet of students' lives. Use such simple attention getting techniques as changing your voice or position in the room. Keep variety in the talk.

  1. What talents are you going to try to develop? (Mathematical, problem solving, etc.)

  2. What critical thinking processes will you try to nurture? (Analysis of concepts from more than a single source.)

  3. What subject matter objectives do you want to develop? (Relate the talk to the content of the course if possible.)

  4. What types of answers will you accept? (Tell the students if you wish them to include an example or explanation in their answers.)

  5. What skills do you wish to develop? (Laboratory skills may need some practice before implementation.)

  6. What attitudes and values do you wish to emphasize? (Ethical or practical applications of research knowledge.)
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Wait-Time Affects the Quality of Responses

When instructors wait three to five seconds before responding, the following occurs:

  1. Students give longer and more complete answers instead of short phrases.

  2. There is an increase in speculative, creative thinking.

  3. "Shy" students increase their participation.

  4. Instructors become more flexible in their responses to students.

  5. The number of suggested questions and experiments increases.

  6. Instructors ask fewer questions, but the ones they ask require more reflection.

  7. Students give a greater number of qualified inferences.

  8. Instructors' expectations for student performance change: Instructors are less likely to expect only the brighter students to reply.
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Role Modeling

To function as a role model the speaker may include a short resume of academic preparation and career experiences. Making use of scientific knowledge and techniques will add credibility.

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Closure

Students should be encouraged to summarize skills, knowledge and understanding of the presentation at the conclusion of the experience. Important points include:

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Tele-Mentoring over the Net

Educational mentoring can be conducted with ease worldwide using the Internet. This enables you to help students or teachers via e-mail, or via audio or video conferencing. When a good match is found, the effects can be powerful. You may mentor an individual or a class of students. You might want to volunteer your services as a subject expert to a particular school and teacher. You should telephone the school and ask to speak to a biology teacher. Tell the teacher what you are willing to do with regard to topics, response time, and the number of questions you will entertain within a given period. You might also consider working as a role model in science with an individual or group of students interested in a career in the field.

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Last Reviewed: May 2006