Panel Presentations: Connect Students with a Real Audience

When I spoke at Californa’s Better Together Teachers Summit, I talked about the power of connecting students with an authentic audience online. I emphasized the role technology can play in helping teachers to get more eyes on student work and, as a result, motivate students to do their best work.

In addition to connecting students to an online audience, I also invite community members, parents, and other students into our classroom regularly. I want to provide my students with meaningful feedback, a live audience, and a fresh perspective.

I realize presenting for an actual audience is a daunting task, but it is also a crucial life skill. I want my students to practice articulating their ideas, sharing their work, and responding to questions so they are better prepared for life beyond high school.

When I send home the parent survey (via Google Form) at the start of the school year, I always ask parents if they are interested in lending their expertise and time to be on a panel or assess student work. I also ask about their availability.

I find it interesting that most teachers at the secondary level do not ask parents to come into the classroom to help out. I regularly volunteer in my children’s elementary classrooms, but I rarely have parents volunteer to come into my high school class. So, instead of waiting for an offer, I ask!

Secondary teachers are juggling so many students that it’s challenging to provide meaningful and timely feedback all by ourselves. This is where a panel of parents, community members, and other students can be extremely useful.

At the end of our design thinking project this semester, students had to present both their process and prototype to a live audience. It was interesting to see them prepare for this presentation. They were nervous. Rightly so. It is a scary experience to stand in front of adults and students they do not know and present. However, the fear of presenting was an incredible motivator.

Groups rehearsed their presentations several times for peers and one group called me over to help them improve their delivery. I asked if it was okay for me to pause their rehearsal and give them real-time feedback. Three girls simultaneously exclaimed, “Yes! That’s exactly what we need!” As they practiced, I reminded them to keep their feet planted, limit distracting movements, and track the speaker. I offered suggestions for making their presentation more specific, which they immediately incorporated. It was exciting to see them so intent on nailing their presentation.

On presentation day, my three-person teaching team provided each group with specific feedback on three separate skills. The panel also used a rubric to assess different aspects of the presentation.

Feedback from each teacher and the panel will be incorporated into their grades. I love that their final grade was a collaborative effort. It makes my life more manageable and makes the feedback more meaningful for students.

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