Current Events Presentation Activity for Introductory Geoscience Classes
For this two-part assignment, students first locate two substantial current events articles on geology-related topics from mainstream newspapers or magazines. The instructor assesses the quality of the articles, making sure that basic criteria have been met, and assigns one article for the student to share with the class in an informal 3-5 minute presentation.
- Basic research skills (finding appropriate current events articles, according to instructions)
- Practice synthesizing and summarizing the writing of others in an informal manner
- Oral presentation skills including: organization, clarity, style, keeping to a time limit, eye contact, speaking with limited use of notes/reference material, and ability to answer questions on-the-fly
- Peer instruction (opportunity to teach and learn from classmates)
- This activity gives students the chance to learn more about geologic subjects of particular interest or relevance to them and/or that were not part of the course curriculum and/or that were particularly topical (i.e. the focus of recent media attention)
Context for Use
Although it was created for an introductory-level Physical Geology course, adaptations can easily be made to make this activity suitable for any course or grade level. Depending on student backgrounds, some specific instructions and/or practice on research and presentation techniques may be necessary. I find that this activity works best in the last 1/3 of the semester, after students have acquired some background knowledge in the subject so they can better understand and explain their articles. It would not work well for very large classes (mine typically have about 30 students). I give students about 2 weeks for Part I (finding the articles) and then try to schedule 5 or 6 presentations per day, at the beginning of the class meetings (on days when no tests are scheduled), during the last month of the course.
Description and Teaching Materials
No special materials are needed in-class. A pdf of the handout/instructions, to be given to the students, is attached.
Current Events Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 105kB Jun7 10)
Teaching Notes and Tips
The biggest problem students seem to have with this assignment is in following all of the instructions/criteria set out for Part I (finding the two articles), so these have to be stressed in class. Since inappropriate or duplicate articles are commonly submitted, it is necessary for the instructor to locate additional suitable articles to assign. Frequent reminders as to due dates and grading criteria for the presentations also need to be given – with as many details and examples as possible.
I try to lay out the expectations for this assignment very clearly – both on the instruction sheet and when I introduce it in class and give reminders. Students are graded based on how well they meet these expectations. To encourage rapt attention and good questions on the part of the "audience", I tell everyone that they are responsible for knowing the main points made by the presenters, and usually ask a couple of open-ended questions about the presentations on the final exam (e.g. "What were 5 of the most interesting things you learned from the presentations given by your classmates?"). The things that I like most about the assignment are the breadth of the topics selected, the active discussions and "teaching moments" generated by the presentations, the peer instruction that takes place, and the change of pace the presentations provide. When these things occur, I consider the activity to have been a success.
References and Resources