Options and Choices: Group Work and Presentations
Here is a selection of some of the main strategies that might be used to address respective needs in terms of group work and presentations. These are just the main strategies so additional links to further useful resources are also included.
Some of these might be considered universal or inclusive approaches that can be applied for the benefit of all learners, whereas others may be more specific interventions that may be needed over and above these to benefit students with specific needs.
As you work through these, think about which of these you do already. Are these things that you could apply in all your teaching? Referring back to the case studies on group work and presentations, which of them would most help Charlie or Alex in their situations?
- Offer a gentle introduction – aim to develop skills over course of the study. “If they know how to do it first time, then what is our role?” We should not assume students have these skills at the start of their studies so should look to support them in developing them throughout their time at university.
- Ensure the learning environment is appropriate for the in-class group tasks being proposed
- Ensure awareness of other accessible and suitable learning spaces where students may undertake group activity
- Staff awareness of and sensitivity to the different needs of students in their classes
- Offer training, support and mentoring for students in group working throughout their studies
- Ensure students are aware of best practice in group working
- Establish clear ground rules for group tasks and provide clear, unambiguous guidance on the task
- Staff support and check ins for group working – not just left to own devices?
- Offer alternative assessment options (in some cases to work on their own)
- Advance warning of in-class group tasks – in notes of lecture / notification at end of previous sessions
Provide all information in accessible formats
- Be clear about what you are seeking to achieve by asking for presentations. And communicate this. Are we testing presentation planning or presentation skills? In most cases it will be structure and content – if so, make this clear to students.
- Assess what is important and avoid assumptions (e.g. eye contact, fluency of speech). If you are testing these things, be sure that you are able to defend why. Be careful of making desirables, essential.
- Offer the opportunity for students to discuss ideas and highlight how any barriers they face might be removed. This might include, for example, a quiet environment, the need to refer to notes and extra time and/or assistance with setting up.
- Provide a structure for all students to follow. This might include:
- Title of presentation
- Presenter’s name(s) and course
- Key points: e.g. problem/task/background/findings/conclusions/future areas for study etc
- Presentation skills vary from person to person. Some students will need to be taught how to structure and deliver a presentation and this coaching and tutoring should be supported over time.
- Support students to develop presentation skills over time.
- Offer presentation skills training (and coaching as course progresses)
- Start small
- Offer video, one to one or small group options (for those who request it)
- In group presentations do not insist all members have to present
- Offer peer to peer support for students from Year 2 and 3 students who have developed these skills (as part of a programme of skills development)
- Allow extra time for those students who feel that they need it. This might be a student with dyslexia requiring more time to organise their thinking or a student with a hearing impairment needing to interpret and translate what has been said.
- Encourage use of assistive technology to support presentations
- Support students during the presentation – ground rules and expectations in terms of audience behaviour
- Ensure the venue for the presentation is accessible to all. Can everyone gain physical access? Can everyone see and hear the presentation? Is the venue appropriate?
- Encourage students to be flexible and to experiment with different tools and methods (such as index cards, mind maps, post presentations, video and
Prezis). This will avoid over-reliance on PowerPoint and in turn will help them to find the tools that best match their preferences.
Reflection on group work and presentations
- How does your practice support the needs of students with regard to group work and presentations?
- What changes to teaching and learning strategies could you make in these situations?
- Who do you need to involve?
- What are the main barriers to you accommodating students’ needs with regard to group work and presentations? How can these be overcome?