presenting in groups

I must not be doing this right.  Much of what I have read about our college students (the Millennial students) is that they like working in groups – that they like being about to work with other students either in discussions that lead to concrete answers (products) or preparing presentations.

Yet, when I assigned group presentation or projects, I faced resistance from the students as well as challenges in making sure that the groups are working.  I wondered if the fact that my students are commuter students makes this a little more difficult… so I even gave him two class sessions to work on the presentations.  Still, most groups seemed to waste the given class time, just individually reading their research materials.  Most groups seemed clueless about what they were actually going to present.  I dreaded seeing these presentations.

But many of them surprised me.  Many were good.  They were informative and creative.  One student created a brilliant video of himself, and while he played it on the screen he talked to himself (that was in a video).  This student, who speaks English as a second langauge and has heavy accent, put the text of what he was saying on the video itself to ensure that his content was being delivered.  The audience loved it.  One group did a jeopardy game, and who doesn’t like jeopardy?  One group baked donuts – and some of the donuts had Reeses’s inside it – and if you got those, it meant that you had AIDS.  They were trying to illustrated just how many people in a group has AIDS in Africa.

And many were boring.  They read from the PowerPoint.  They showed a video or two, but didn’t really engage with them – they just showed them.  They gave us information that was elementary – the group talking about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan gave very basic information about the effects.   Boring.  Many were mumbling and lost about what they were trying to say.

So, what I realized in the end was that it’s not so much that they don’t like doing group work (somehow they all kind of come together) – they’re not very good at making effective presentations.  I think most students need to be taught presentation skills.  Maybe next time, I can ask a colleague who teaches public speaking to come to our class for a brief lesson.

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