Presentation Design

Design Principles

Participants come to an activity with preconceptions about how their world works, in terms of content knowledge, their general environment, and interactions with fellow professionals. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions after the activity is completed. Some ways to structure content to address this:

  • Engage resilient preconceptions
  • Draw on knowledge and experiences that participants commonly bring to the learning environment but which are generally not activated with regard to the topic under discussion
  • Provide opportunities for participants to experience discrepant events that allow them to come to terms with shortcomings in their everyday models
  • Organize concepts around the nature of the discipline and those central to understanding (core concepts) the subject matter  (core principles)
  • Support metacognition through ample time for discussion (and feel free to draw up discussion questions). Discussion in classroom settings have consistently shown benefits to students' metacognition through observing and engaging in questioning. This provides participants opportunities to increase their ability to monitor and question their own thinking.
Here's an illustrative paragraph from How students learn history, mathematics, and science in the classroom by Donovan and Bransford:
The work of Stewart and his colleagues described in Chapter 12 is another case in which observations of student efforts to learn help reshape understanding of the package of related core concepts. The critical role of natural selection in understanding evolution would certainly be identified as a core concept by any expert in biology. But in the course of teaching about natural selection, these researchers’ realization that students underestimated the variation in populations led them to recognize the importance of this concept that they had not previously identified as core. Again, experts in evolutionary biology may not identify population variation as an important concept because they understand and use the concept routinely—perhaps without conscious attention to it. Knowledge gleaned from classroom teaching, then, can be critical in defining the connected concepts that help support core understandings.