Michael Brown's Design Narrative: Presentation Skills and Motivation

Designing a project and presentation program

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Michael Brown
3 April 2015

Narrator: I was a solo instructor/tutor in this story.

Situation: I was the tutor for a small group of 'returnee' junior high school students in Japan. 'Returnee' students are ethnically Japanese students who have lived for a substantial amount of time overseas and have been educated in overseas (non-Japanese) schools, but now live in and attend school in Japan. They are referred to as 'returnees' even if they have never lived in Japan before (i.e. were born overseas). There are various linguistic, cultural, social, and personal challenges that these students, their families, their schools, and their communities face. The families of these students were worried that the children may begin to 'lose' the English they had known in America because they were now in a very English-scarce environment. Class-work often involved explicit grammar and writing instruction, and outside reading. In general, it was very tutor-centered.

Task: To create a more student-centered environment, especially one in which students could have more control over the content and direction of their learning. To aid in developing this environment we introduced a program featuring student projects and presentations.

Actions: Students were told about the project and presentation program, and that they would be able to choose their own topics. Example topics were provided and 2 types of presentation modes (powerpoint, poster) were modelled. Students submitted their ideas for projects, and with suggestions from the tutor, determined the topic and mode of presentation. Students worked on the projects and presentation planning generally outside of class-time. Class-time was still used for grammar other types of instruction. Every week, some class-time was set aside to discuss how the projects were coming along, any problems or updates, and confirm progress. Student work was screened and class-time given for discussing and practicing presentation skills. From the explanation of the projects to the actual presentations took about 1 month. Students presented their projects to the class.

Results/Reflections: I was very impressed with the work of the students. They were eager to produce and present their own work. They also demonstrated improved behavior and willingness to work in class, even when we were not talking directly about the projects. The students filled out short questionnaires and semi-structured group interviews were conducted. The students gave overwhelmingly positive impressions about doing the projects. They liked the ability to choose their own topics. Many students also like the role-reversal when they were presenting, that is, they enjoyed sharing and teaching what they had been learning. One student described his feelings as “I like being the boss!”, which I interpreted as a feeling he was not accustomed to having in class settings, and one that helped him to feel positive about learning.

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