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How to improve your CE presentations.

How to improve your CE presentations

New instructors often experience frustrations when they begin classroom teaching. Usually they can identify the sources of their dissatisfaction--classroom presentations that fall short or students who are having difficulty mastering content--but they don't know what to do about it.

To help our instructors, and as program director of medical technology at our 450-bed hospital, I sat in on continuing education workshops, in-services, and MT classes in order to identify ways to enhance classroom teaching. My auditing of classes over a six-month period provided a number of ideas to present back to the instructional staff. This article is based on my observations.

First of all, I saw that lecturing, or reading notes, is not the only way to conduct a classroom learning experience. Instructors have a variety of teaching strategies and tools to help them provide better presentations to their students, or learners. They include:

Programmed notes that allow learners to take key words away from the classroom presentation. Instructors accomplish this by distributing handouts of outlines or charts that have blank sections or spaces on them. Learners take notes by filling in the blanks with specific information provided by the instructor. Programmed notes provide the students with just the information that the instructor wants them to glean from the discussion.

Visual aids in the form of slides, overhead transparencies, films, and videotapes. Though popular as teaching tools, visual aids need more attention in their use than we usually give them. All visuals, for example, except film and videotape with audio, should be explained verbally while they are being displayed so that learners focus on what you want them to see. This enhances the likelihood that everyone in the class will be guided toward the same message from the material.

Some instructors supplement slides with labels or captions. If you must use words on a slide, keep them few in number because aids work best when the message is visual rather than verbal. Also use type that is large enough to be seen from the back of the room.

Synchronize what you have to say with the visual. The first time you mention a word, show a visual to go with it. Word and visual together will enhance retention. Avoid saying: "I'll be showing you a slide of that later.'

The configuration of your visual aid is important. Often, observers remember the layout of a chart but not the message it contains. Complex diagrams that make several points at once obscure the message and weaken understanding and retention. Aids that carry a one-glance punch are better remembered. Avoid wordy charts, displays of sentences, paragraphs, lists of items containing more than two words each, and lists longer than five items.

Visuals are especially helpful in introducing difficult and unfamiliar subject matter. For example, long-term memory of medical terms for shapes of blood cells is enhanced when the words are accompanied by slides of the cells. Generally, without a visual aid, word-by-word recall is good only for short-term memory.

Other points to keep in mind include: If something on a slide is outdated and you don't want to emphasize it, don't use that slide. Use a series of slides to present complex material in small portions. Avoid having your presentation determined by the arrangement of slides in the tray. Keep in mind that visuals are to help you make your point, not find your point! Avoid the temptation to reduce your entire presentation into a series of visuals. And if you want to show motion, videotape short segments of lab techniques.

Finally, ask for "slide off' when a visual is no longer being discussed. Turn lights "up' when no slides are being shown or the film is over.

Wallboards in the form of chalkboards, flip charts, and magnetic boards. The effectiveness of many wallboards has been limited by their misuse. For example, an instructor may put an outline on the board to keep his or her place in the lesson plan. If in fact the outline is followed, the learners may benefit indirectly, but the prime beneficiary is the instructor.

The best use of the wallboard as a teaching aid is to capture ideas emerging from the group. For example, by briefly writing each person's idea on the wallboard during a class discussion, the instructor validates each one's contribution to the class.

In using wallboards, keep the following hints in mind: Put headings on lists. Use short words and phrases, not long, involved sentences. Erase or flip over charts of material whose point has been finished to avoid causing distraction. Realize that when you write words on a wallboard, you are just spelling them out. It may be better to include a brief diagram or illustration for visual reinforcement.

Plan the layout of the wallboard so you don't wind up without enough space or with information out of sequence, but be flexible enough to include information as it emerges from the discussion. Remember that if you write with your nose buried in the board or if you block what you're writing, you'll lose contact with the learners and their attention will wander. And, of course, write large enough on the board so that it can be seen by all in the room.

Questions used at frequent intervals during the classroom presentation. As a teaching technique, questions are an effective way to insure understanding, re tention, and attentiveness. Questions review important points, keep the speaker aware of how well the group is "getting it,' and bring out areas needing clarification. They also keep learners on their toes.

When presenting a question to the group, state the question and allow all to think about it. Then call on individuals by name, so that each one can get involved, not just certain volunteers.

Questioning is one way of involving the learner so that he or she becomes part of the learning process. The other ways are through reading assignments and trial performances.

Students don't necessarily learn from reading but from using what they read. They need to interact with the material or data, either as an intellectual activity or by following the instructions of what they have read. Instructors can make written material such as texts, case studies, and patient lab data more interactive for the learner by asking questions about the material, e.g., here are the data, identify the organism.

With in-class reading material such as handouts, instructors can ask students to analyze the data for specific information to solve problems or answer questions. With outside reading assignments, instructors can formulate a question for the group to pursue in follow-up discussion after the required reading assignment is completed. These techniques will enhance interaction between the learner and the material.

Having learners actually do what you are telling them about or what they are reading about is the best technique of all for enhancing understanding and retention. For example, whenever possible have them make identifications from slides under microscopes instead of from overhead projections or have them learn instrument use from demonstration models rather than from manufacturers' instruction charts.

All of the above teaching strategies require planning and preparation for classroom use. I have found one helpful technique to be the three-section page, which outlines the lesson plan according to objectives, materials, and method. For example, a plan for a hematology lesson might list under objectives: Distinguish red cell precursors in the bone marrow of iron deficiency anemia from normal red cell precursors. Under materials, slides would be listed. For method, the instructor would explain that the slides show the asynchrony in the developing red cells in iron deficiency, that cytoplasmic maturation lags behind nuclear development due to the lack of iron necessary for hemoglobin synthesis, and that the iron deficiency precursors may appear smaller but bluer, and with shaggy blunt extensions.

In conjunction with my audit of classroom presentations, I compiled a checklist of reminders and hints for instructors (Figure I). The question to ask yourself as you go through the checklist is "Do I need to apply this to my teaching?' If you do, help yourself.

Photo: Figure I A step-by-step checklist for better classroom presentations
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Title Annotation:continuing education
Author:Bobek, Joanne R.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Sep 1, 1987
Words:1359
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