If Bees can create, so can C’s – Preparing a curiosity rich presentation
It was 2:47PM on a Thursday afternoon in October of 2014, my first year of teaching, when it happened. I was in Medical Pathology class lecturing about the pulmonary system and was 15 slides deep when the sound of a car screeching it’s breaks played over the speakers. It had occurred at exactly the same time as I clicked to move onto the second point of the slide, but I knew I never added a sound effect to the slide. I was at a loss for a moment. Where had that sound come from? Are the students punking me right now? Do you know those times when it feels like everything stops and a million different scenarios go through your head? This was one of those times. There I was standing in front of 42 DPT students running through all the possible scenarios. I was already on edge teaching the pulmonary system pathology as I am not an expert in those diagnoses and this whole teaching thing was still really new to me, so I was panicking. I nervously laughed and said, “Whoa! Where did that come from?”
As the students chuckled, I quickly realized that who I was as an instructor was about to be revealed…a fraud. The slides I was teaching from were not mine. I inherited all of the content from the previous instructor and with her recommendation I began teaching off her slides. The sound effect was left over from when she created the slide deck. I quickly realized I had a second to salvage the situation and prevent the students from knowing I literally had no idea what I was doing. But, would that be the right thing to do? Should I just fess up now, so they can see I make mistakes?
In my blog, Curiosity is why cats have 9 lives, I discussed the need to ask yourself key questions as you are preparing your course. Not only is it important to ask yourself what the key questions are you want your students to explore in the course, but it is also important to have that question focus for individual class meetings as well. If you are looking for ways to incorporate curiosity into your content, creating your content from scratch is ideal. Learn from my mistakes and try these steps instead:
1. Create the context - “What do they know and what should they know about this topic already?”
Beginning your presentation design with the context in mind allows you to know where you can go deeper with some content and where you may need to spend some time reviewing other content. In DPT school, every course builds upon previous courses content. This works well to allow each repetition with the material to go deeper, but sometimes the first or second pass through of the material doesn’t stick. As you are preparing your lecture, work in ways to create a litmus test for the context. You could do a pre-lecture Kahoot! quiz that allows you to see how the class is answering questions about the content you think they should know about. If answers are all across the board, then you know you will need to zig…if they have mostly correct answers, then you know you can zag. Other ideas include giving a pre-lecture quiz and then asking the class to comment on what questions they struggled with the most. That can allow you to stop and slowdown in those areas of the lecture to provide more review. As you are preparing your content, it is a good idea to have a few trajectories in mind for setting the context.
2. Create the content - “What are the key questions I want the students to explore in this topic?”
The key word in this question is explore. You aren’t asking yourself what definitions I want students to memorize, remember this is about creating curiosity. Yes, there will be clear content that each student will be required to know and memorize, but there will also be content that you can create curiosity around. That is where this question is asking you to live. Where in this topic can I let their brains wonder? Where in this topic does my mind wonder? I know when I sit down and go through this process, it feels REALLY uncomfortable. As a health care practitioner, we have been taught many clinical predictive rules, contraindications, guidelines to follow, etc. We usually see content as black and white, but how often in treating real patients are things black and white? By finding the areas we tend to wonder about and maximizing those during our content delivery, we can capture our audience’s attention and create a space for learning.
3. Create closure…or not. – “What areas need to be reinforced?”
As you are finalizing your presentation, leave room at the end for closure. Students will need to see where they started and how new material has been integrated in. During your preparation, think about areas of the topic that you struggled with as a teacher and/or as a student. Often those areas are also areas where students will have some hang-ups. Think of an additional way to present the material at the end which can wrap it all up into an understandable review. Be flexible here too, having a keen observation eye during content delivery can allow you to see when a content area is causing students to get derailed, even when you weren’t expecting it to, and then return to the topic during the closure to try and clear it up. Closure doesn’t always have to happen either. In fact, one method of creating more curiosity around a topic is to leave a question unanswered in class. But with one stipulation…you have to also be sure the students know they will be responsible for answering the question. Better yet, be sure to leave the question unanswered to a point that the students feel compelled to go and find the answer outside of class.
So back to my story and the moment of truth. Did I fess up? Did I admit to the room that I had not spent the time preparing the content or the slides? No…I unfortunately did not. I bailed on vulnerability and did the next best thing I could think of. I blamed my husband (sorry honey!). I literally said my husband must have inserted the sound effect as a joke when I walked away from my slide deck while at home. I laugh just thinking of how in the world I came up with that excuse on the spot. Did your parents ever tell you when you were growing up that if you were in a situation you didn’t want to be in, you could just blame them for your need to exit? Well, I kind of applied that theory to marriage too…we never discussed that to be the case, but I feel like marriage is an equal of a bond.
What do you think?
When you are preparing a lecture, what steps do you take?