Oral communication

To be able to communicate knowledge to another person you need to know how to make an effective and engaging presentation. To do this you use verbal and non-verbal cues as well as different visual aides. 

It is also important to understand how to adress different kind of groups, be they scientists or not. At the start of the programmes we give a theoretical introduction to oral communication and how to give and receive feedback. 

In a presentation both what we say and how we say it is important. Both need to be given equal space in the discussions and comments that occur after a session. If how we say it is occluded it is easy to stop listening even if the message is interesting and important. The same thing can occur if what we say is wrong/too difficult/too easy/etc.

Raising the bar

During the programme various assignments and tasks connected to oral communication are included. We start off by presenting in small groups with individual short demonstrations and then the scale increases with time. The different assignments aim to adress different parts of oral communication and the difficulty of said tasks should increase as the programme progresses. All students are encouraged to use different tools and techniques and adapt them to their own way of presenting. We aim to give all students increased confidence and knowledge when it comes to presenting. 

Differences exists within different disciplines and we always try to adapt to that which is relevant in said discipline. An example of an easier oral presentation can be a demonstration of a plant. The assignments varies in time, by debating, to give instructions and more. All students should learn to become better communicators both when adressing a scientific audience as well as a more "popular science" crowd. During some courses we also videofilm presentations.

A safe environment

The teachers aim to create a safe and allowing atmosphere for all students. They are aware that some students suffer from a fear of speaking publicly and know the rutines to help such students. We aim to help alla students to adress their difficulties rather than letting such students slide. Since the need to present will remain when working the best way is to adress the problem in an as safe place as possible. 

Rutines for speech anxiety can be found here.

Feedback on oral presentations

After a presentation selected students and the teacher give the presenter feedback on the performance, sometimes with the aid of reviewing the session if it was recorded. The feedback helps the student to identify their strengths and areas of development - what they can improve when presenting and how. Based on the feedback given the student then fills in a self evaluation.

When involved in an assignment in oral presentation other students fill in a feedback form that is given to the presenter. 

Such forms can be found here.

The emphasis of the feedback should be on marking the positive aspects - what went well and why? At the same time the goal is for every student to get constructive feedback everytime so that hir may improve and develop further communication skills. By using both the confidence of many students increase which is a main factor in giving a good presentation.

An example of an oral presentation

Here you can find some example of how to construct an oral presentation in a course. The thing these versions have in common is that the students get the assignment i due time, with clear instructions on what is expected of them both regarding the subject and the presentation. Clear information creates comfort and security. The students should also be reminded to review their portfolio to see what comments they made last time and to use the development ladder as support and a tool during the progress.

a) Short individual presentation

Schedule the desired time of the presentation + time for questions + 5 minutes for feedback. E.g. 10 minute presentation gives 10 + 5 + 5 = 20 minutes per presentation.

b) Minisymposium

a 15-minute presentation done in groups of two or three. Three presentations and then questions. Afterwards a 20-30 minute break where the three groups get feedback in parallell sessions from students and supervisors. Schedule (time to present + time for questions) * number of groups + break (e.g. 10 min feedback + 10 min break for the presenters). 18 students could give 9 groups of two students and a total of just over five hours.

c) Videorecorded presentation in front of a larger group (e.g. 30 persons):

The presentations are done and recorded in the lecture room where all discussion are done as well. The presenters and a few students giving feedback plus the supervisor meet afterwards in parallell sessions to view the recording and give feedback to the presenter. Schedule for presentations + viewing the recording + 10 minutes for feedback.