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Practising talks

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 tutorial groups.

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 group.

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:


Practising talks will be much more useful if the speaker gets feedback. I propose that, after each talk:
  1. 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.

  2. 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?"

  3. 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.)

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