Participation in learning activities

Tutorials, PBL group sessions and workshops are an integral part of most courses and marks may be allocated for participation. They are all an important source of learning in the course, and students require some basic skills if they are to maximise the utility of these sessions.

It is important to understand the purpose of each session. What is it about? What is it covering? What am I here for? This can usually be found in the course overview. This will help you to participate effectively in the session.

It is important to undertake any required preparation for the session; this may include reading textbook chapters, researching journals, responding to quizzes and surveys, or viewing a video / DVD. Sessions are of little use to students without undertaking this work, and the lecturer/tutor have prepared learning activities on the basis that the prescribed preparation work has been done.

It is important to consider others. Sitting and chatting with close friends, or passing notes, can destroy the atmosphere of the activity and the learning potential of the group. Mixing with new people can additionally enhance your social and educational networks, as well as open you to new ideas and perspectives.

It is important to be aware of how you present in the group. Try not to either dominate or withdraw, as both are distracting for the lecturer/tutor and the group. Try to use the communication skills you are developing in order to engage in active listening, make valuable and considered contributions, and ask appropriate questions.

It is important to remember that follow-up is just as important as preparation. If questions remain unanswered after the PBL session or tutorial, student should follow them up with the lecturer/tutor, other students or through own research. If they are still unclear, raise them at the next session.

Oral Presentations

For many people preparing and giving an oral presentation is a challenging aspect of assessment. However, as professionals, we require competent speaking and presentation skills in a variety of contexts

The key to a good oral presentation is preparation. This involves not only preparation of the content of the presentation, but of the actual delivery as well. You should rehearse the presentation until you feel comfortable with the material. This does not mean learning it by rote, but ensuring you are familiar with all the key concepts.

The following are important areas to remember:

  • Ensure that you understand the task required of you. Read the task and the attached assessment criteria thoroughly. After you have prepared your presentation, look back at the criteria and ensure that you have met them
  • Give your presentation some structure, so that listeners and markers alike can see where you are going and the argument you are making. Focus on your introduction and conclusion: these are what people recall most
  • Practise your presentation, especially where there is a time limitation. Generally, you will be asked to stop when your time elapses, so ensure you can cover your major points at least within that period
  • Do not read entirely from your notes. This is disengaging for the audience and the marker and often seen as a ‘boring’ distraction. Talk to your notes, not from them – use them as prompts
  • Know the room you are to present in well, so that you are able to use equipment (computer, data projector, document viewer, VCR / DVD), and this does not add further to your possible assessment stress
  • Be interesting (don’t read just from notes or slides) and involved in your topic
  • Learn from other presentations you have seen. Borrow techniques and ideas
  • Be prepared to take questions. Think about the things people might ask in advance and have some ideas prepared. Being receptive to questions demonstrates that you know the topic well and are confident and relaxed with it