“Short and Sweet: A Guide to Presenting!” by Sian Reilly

Are you a slide slave? …
I admit and confess to being a slide slave and this particular point I struggle with immensely. Presenting is about perfecting your thoughts; not your slides. Therefore, it does not matter how many slides you create if you have not created your presentation speech. This is because in a presentation you should aim to talk to the audience and not depend on your slides.

Distracting or Engaging?? Debate endures
Another hot topic is whether to even use a presentation at all. Some regard basic public speaking to be the most effective as there are no distracting elements such as zooming, which could detract from the important points. A dynamic speaker is one that connects to the audience, and if these effects prove to be a barrier to that connection you should seriously evaluate why you are using them. Furthermore, software like Microsoft PowerPoint can often feel impersonal or generic to an audience and result in disengagement. The principle is therefore simplicity produces clarity in communication.

Visually Veracious
However, I am pro-presentations as a visual learner. Moreover, in terms of retaining knowledge, in a lecture-styled approach only 5% of knowledge is retained. In contrast, by employing audio-visual 4 times more knowledge is retained, so to retain veracious (accurate) knowledge get visual!

Retain or wane in vain
Yes, I know the rhymes are terrible… but let us continue; perseverance in is in the STEP acronym after all…
Demonstrations, discussions, practical work and teaching others are also vital in retaining knowledge; by teaching others 90% of knowledge is retained. Nevertheless, it is often hard to implement the ‘teaching others’ style in a presentation format.
On the bright side, you can make your presentation more interactive by adding videos, invite a member of the audience to be involved (a ‘lucky’ volunteer), welcome questions throughout your presentation, include props and a summary competitive quiz.

Break it down!
Even if you cannot dance, I assure you that you can break it down. Welcoming questions throughout your presentation is vital as the audience typically disengages after ten minutes. By taking gentle breaks in your presentation to interact with your audience, thereby incorporating them into your presentation, they will be more engaged. Tools such as sli.do enable audience members to ask questions anonymously so even reticent audience members can participate in the discussion.

Silence I say, Silence in the House! *judge bangs hammer*
Ralph Waldo Emerson once declared:

“The most precious things in the speech are the pauses.”

The success of any presentation is ultimately judged not by how much knowledge you send out but by how much knowledge the audience listening receives. Pauses are therefore absolutely essential. As in music, pauses allow the audience time to reflect and process what has been said or discussed. This time allows the audience to form their own opinions and develop questions to ask the presenters.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”- Dr. Maya Angelou (1928 to 2014)

Finally to connect to an audience you have to make them feel an emotion. If you can evoke an emotion, audience members will feel more of a connection to you and thus remember your presentation more. In order to evoke emotion, you can tell personal stories to illustrate your humanity. To emotionally connect with your audience, you can also choose a colour palette that psychologically resonates to the culture and demographic of your intended audience.

I generally use Prezi as a tool as I find it much more than Microsoft PowerPoint. This is mainly due to Prezi’s ability to present a non-linear story. A non-linear story is much more understandable as it illustrates the relationships, a mind map linking your ideas to give the audience an overall picture. This also enables you to create a more customised presentation that is based on the audiences’ interests, which they will therefore more easily appreciate and thus remember. Other tools I have also used are Visme and Emaze.

Further Reading…


The Blob Tree

In our ‘Momentum Monday’ session on 14th September 2015, Edyta our Business Administration Training Manager, spoke to us about a resource called The Blob Tree.

Blob Tree

Edyta used this resource to introduce associates to the Business Administration pathway during induction.

At the start of a session in which associates were advised about the different teaching, learning and assessment aspects of their pathway, they were asked to colour in which figure they most identified with. When the session was over, they were then asked to perform the same exercise to see if any changes had ocurred. Some of the associates volunteered to share why they had chosen certain figures, together with their expectations and apprehensions about undertaking a programme of study while working full-time, being assessed in the workplace and widening their networks.

The Blob Tree helps people to articulate their feelings. If a learner identifies with a particular figure and then talks about that figure, it doesn’t feel as though they are speaking directly about themselves. This is helpful for those who are self-conscious or who lack confidence. There are no right or wrong answers about the blob figures, and they are completely open to interpretation, not just in terms of mood, but also in terms of gender, culture, race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity etc.

There are many different versions of The Blob Tree to make it more contextual and meaningful to both tutors and learners.

Blob Examples

It can also be used over a period of time to develop skills or track progress. As with any resource, the frequency of use and the desired outcomes should be carefully considered to maximise the impact on personal and professional development.


Further Reading…

Ofsted Common Inspection Framework – Further Education and Skills

Ofsted have updated all of their inspection handbooks for September 2015. The one that is most applicable to us is the Further Education and Skills Handbook, which covers the provision of apprenticeships.

Two important points to note from the outset:

  • The content of the handbook must not be viewed as only applicable in the lead up to an inspection, and the way we work should never be for the purpose of impressing Ofsted. If we plan our sessions effectively and continually strive for outstanding, then whenever Ofsted, funding providers, employers, parents and other interested stakeholders visit, we won’t feel the need to put on a performance for them – it will be a case of ‘business as usual’; and
  • The outstanding criteria are not restricted to classroom teaching. The apprentices’ attitudes, behaviours and employability skills are also under scrutiny, which means that professional development training, ILP meetings, SMART target-setting, social mixing, and the extent of social action are just as important.

Ultimately, Ofsted inspectors judge the quality of teaching (however it is delivered), and assessing by the impact on learning, and not by the impressiveness of available resources, nor how many activities a tutor can cram into a single session.

Providers must carefully consider how to measure and record the impact on learning, which will have implications from a compliance perspective.

The outstanding grade descriptors for the quality of teaching, learning and assessment include the following, which are worthy of note:

  • Staff plan learning sessions and assessments very effectively so that all learners undertake demanding work that helps them to realise their potential;
  • Staff have consistently high expectations of all learners’ attitudes to learning and learners are set challenging targets to achieve;
  • Learners use their experiences in the workplace to further develop their knowledge, skills and understanding;
  • Staff give learners incisive feedback about what they can do to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills;
  • Learners capitalise on opportunities to use feedback to improve;
  • Where appropriate, parents and/or employers are provided with clear and timely information that details the extent of learners’ progress in relation to the standards expected and what they need to do to improve;
  • Staff promote, where appropriate, English, mathematics, ICT and employability skills exceptionally well and ensure that learners are well-equipped with the necessary skills to progress to their next steps.

In relation to personal development, behaviour and welfare, the following characteristics are included as outstanding:

  • Learners are confident and self-assured. Their excellent attitudes to learning have a strong, positive impact on their progress. They take pride in the work they complete with the provider and in the workplace;
  • Learners understand how their education and training equip them with the behaviours and attitudes necessary for success in the future, as reflected by the excellent employability skills they acquire and the achievement of relevant additional qualifications;
  • Learners often quickly become an asset to the business and make a highly valued contribution;
  • Attendance and punctuality at learning sessions and/or work are consistently excellent. They meet challenging deadlines well;
  • The personal and social development of learners equips them to be thoughtful, caring and active citizens.

This should manifest itself in the form of apprentices who are aware and able to articulate their knowledge and understanding clearly, and convincingly demonstrate the skills they have acquired.

In other words, they should be able to distinguish between what they have done and what they have learned.


The unabridged version of The Further Education and Skills Inspection Handbook is available here.

Teaching and Learning Toolkit

I recently came across an interesting piece of research jointly conducted by The Sutton Trust and The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Originally carried out in 2011 with the premise of giving guidance to teachers and schools on how to utilise resources to raise achievement in disadvantaged learners, the researchers looked at 21 teaching and learning interventions, their cost-effectiveness and the impact on attainment.

The project was updated in 2015, and this time examined 34 teaching and learning interventions including collaborative learning (groupwork), digital technology, early years intervention, feedback, individualised instruction (differentiation), learning styles, mentoring, one to one tuition, parental involvement, peer tutoring, reducing class size, and social and emotional learning.

We all know that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily resolve it, and the flip-side to that is not investing sufficient funds to make any material difference.

Cost estimations used in the Toolkit are based on the approximate cost of implementing an approach for a group of 25 learners. Where the approach does not require an additional resource, estimates are based on the cost of training or professional development which may be required. This data enables us to conduct our own cost-benefit analysis by comparing the cost estimations with the expected increase in average attainment.

Average impact is estimated in terms of the additional months’ progress you might expect learners to make as a result of an approach being used by an education provider, taking average learner progress over a year as a benchmark.

Having previously initiated a peer tutoring scheme in an FE college where it led to a significant improvement in retention and achievement, I was personally interested in the research findings regarding the impact of peer tutoring on attainment.

According to the research, implementing peer tutoring has an average impact of five months. This means that learners in a group where peer support is provided, will make on average five months more progress over the course of a year, compared to another group of learners who were performing at the same level at the start of the year. On a 12 month programme of study, like the apprenticeships we run, this is a significant outcome.

As with any research project, the results are contextual and therefore not automatically transferable, but they do provide practitioners with a useful basis on which to promote innovative teaching and learning strategies.

The Teaching and Learning Toolkit is a live resource and will continue to be updated.

Session Planning

Today marks the first of our training team’s CPD 15-minute forums, known as ‘Momentum Monday’. Every Monday at 9:15, one of our tutors or assessors will share a successful teaching strategy/resource for 5-10 minutes. Then the other members of the training team will discuss ways to implement this in their own subject areas, or share similar approaches which they have also used successfully.

The idea for these forums came from the aptly titled book by Shaun Allison (edited by Jackie Beere):

Perfect Teacher-Led CPD

Perfect Teacher-Led CPD

I thought I would get things underway with a forum about the extent to which our revamped session plan could contribute towards effective teaching and learning.

A comprehensively designed training session evidenced by a completed session plan, does not automatically result in an outstanding experience for the learners.

The session plan is useful for the tutor delivering the session, and also for any potential observer, but it is merely an indicator of what might happen during the session. Anyone who has taught will know that even the most carefully constructed session plan is prone to slippage in terms of timings and/or the proposed content.

A written plan is not an end product in itself, but one of the stages in the overall process of delivering high quality teaching and learning. Also, the relationship between successive training sessions is just as important as each individual session.

Our session plan is particularly helpful in supporting us to deliver appropriate learning outcomes because it requires tutors to consider areas which might otherwise have been overlooked, such as opportunities to promote equality and diversity, employability skills developed during the session and links to career progression.

Common mistakes made when planning training sessions are:

  • Plans which centre around tutor activity as opposed to learner activity; and
  • Tutors focusing on what learners will be doing rather than what they will be learning.

Our training team is currently gearing up for the start of the next teaching year, so the CPD focus for September 2015 will be various aspects of planning (and ultimately delivering) outstanding training sessions.