Faculty Development & Learning Assessment


posted by Riley Quarles on 01/20/2010

This Fall Semester (‘09) in WSHD 333 Wildland Water Quality I tried several new techniques. In this posting I will talk about group presentations. Groups of 5-7 students chose term paper topics with a common thread (such as the Klamath River Basin). At the end of the semester they gave group presentations on their topic. I gave each group a range of options for how to use the 50 minutes. Most chose PowerPoint, one group had a poster session, and one group chose PechaKucha. (PechaKucha is a PowerPoint presentation, but limited to twenty slides and set on an automatic timer with only twenty seconds per slide.) It made for an interesting comparison of methods.

Of the PowerPoint presentations, the PechaKucha presenters were electric! Their presentations felt like laser-beams of focus and control. Each word, each image was precisely crafted and delivered. Their fellow students were riveted. I have never seen anything like it!

Part of the effectiveness was the extra time the presenters had to put into crafting their presentations. They described a lengthy and iterative process of removing material, stripping down to the essential points they wanted to make. Typically there are only a few words on a slide. As an audience member you have to pay attention, you only have twenty seconds to capture the essence of the material before the next slide pops up. Because there is no fluff, you really can’t afford to zone out or you will be left behind. When I asked presenters afterwards if they would want to use this same presentation technique in professional settings in the future, they enthusiastically agreed. One of the presenters asked the audience for their opinion, and the audience responded very positively.

Since the presentations last only 6 minutes and 40 seconds, it leaves a lot of time for discussion or group activities related to the content, or to have many students present in one class period. One method to consider would be to divide an existing full lecture PowerPoint into two or three Pecha Kucha presentations alternating with activities such as “muddiest point” or “go around” (one word to describe the presentation), quick writes, polling with clickers, and/or discussion.
I will definitely be working this style into my class presentations and student work.

Give it a try!

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Entry References

Here are some links:
The PechaKucha phenomenon: http://www.pecha-kucha.org/,
A related concept: The Takahashi Method: http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/2005/09/living_large_ta.html