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When asked, one point made by some students in this department is that they
don't get as much practice at giving talks as perhaps they should, and
compared to the amount of practice they might get or did already get in
levels 1 and 2 in other departments. Since by the end of the reading party,
all have already had some experience of it, they do not need heavy tutoring,
but simply practice together with a bit of feedback. This could be done in
What I've trialled is at each level 3 weekly tutorial, have one of the
students give a 4 minute talk. After the talk, have questions on the content
first, and then brief comments from every other student: e.g. best and worst
feature of the talk. I assigned a rota of speakers at the first meeting, by
getting them to roll a die.
More practical detail
Here's a general specification for the weekly talks exercise in our tutorial
The talk should be 4 minutes long (plus 1 or more minutes for questions).
They should have visuals like slides, but delivered on paper handouts. I offer
to copy the handouts for the student provided I have them before the start of
the tutorial, as either email attachments or paper in my pigeonhole.
Possible talk topics
The topic can be anything the speaker chooses that might interest the group
and relate to the course, unless the group or the tutor asks for something
specific (which might occasionally be done). Some suggestions for kinds of
talk topics are:
- Summarise a lecture given recently. An important ability, but not
easy for students, is to decide what the most important point in a whole
- Pick a point in a lecture that was "explained" but which you couldn't
understand at the time; sort it out; give the full explanation in your talk.
Or equally, describe some misconception you had at one point, why it was
tempting, what's wrong with it and what the right view is.
- Pick a point mentioned but not developed in a lecture e.g. contained in
"further reading", follow it up, summarise it for the group.
- Pick a past exam question, develop an essay plan for an answer to
it, present that.
- It doesn't have to be lecture related. A talk on study skills,
career options and how to apply, or anything else related to the wider
business of being a student. A joint honours student could give a talk
summarising the contrasts between doing psychology and (say) sociology, and
whether they illuminate each other or on the contrary are two contrasting
Practising talks will be much more useful if the speaker gets feedback.
I propose that, after each talk:
- There is first any questions and discussion about the topic (the content
of the talk). Personally I judge my success as a speaker by the questions I
get, and something I keep telling myself and sometimes actually do, is to end
a talk with a question for the audience, or what I want to hear from them.
- The speaker then says what they would most like to have comments on e.g.
"Was it boring?" "Was it too long?" "Did the slides/handout work?"
- Then, we should go round the group, and each person should say briefly:
(Best so the speaker knows what to keep doing; worst so they know what to
change next time.)
- Their answer to the speaker's request for information
- What they think the best thing about the talk was.
- What they think the worst thing about the talk was.
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