Throughout my career, and while watching an offspring or two struggling with having to address an audience, I’ve realised how so many don’t yet understand the difference between these “public speaking events” when the requirement “hits them”.
From their school entry class (at age c. five in New Zealand) to their academic studies in tertiary education (at age c. eighteen in NZ), this requirement is part of the English curriculum in primary to secondary education, and is woven into their assessments in more formal knowledge-related classes (science, social sciences – history, geography, economics etc.) at secondary, then at tertiary levels of education.
They can’t get away from them!
Confidant and capable learners have no trouble in oration of any one of these speaking types. They are generally speaking well, able to speak with confidence, knowing at a deep level of understanding the facts they need to present. (In fact, they may have too much to say, to the discomfort of some listeners.)
Learners who are struggling with learning itself – in any field – have nightmares almost about these requirements. This nervousness can strike at age five, in what used to be called in the infant room “morning talks” – a scheduled event in the day. I can clearly recall a few students who had to be encouraged to speak to their class.
A child would proudly stand in front of the class (all gathered closely, with teacher sitting alongside, both taking the attendance, and watching the children) and talk about the topic of interest – most often with a toy, book, or picture – and tell the class about it.
The teacher would encourage the audience to ask questions about the subject of the talk, sometimes addressing her encouragement to a child who had never yet given a morning talk.
And even asking a question could be a challenge for some.
(You can look forward to reading my memoir for a few delightful such experiences!)
In higher level school classes (say, ages ten to twelve) this requirement to demonstrate public speaking skills continues, although in a different context and mode. Speeches would have an assigned topic or a child-chosen one, relevant to the class and the current interest of the student. Then there may be an annual Speech Contest for years seven and eight, usually a competition between schools in the area.
It is at years seven and upwards that the Morning Talk, and their Class Speech give way to the Presentation. This has been so since the computer age placed Microsoft PowerPoint readily at hand. Teachers began using it to deliver lessons, and as a learning task students have been assessed on their ability to Present their chosen or allocated topic.
The niceties of a presentation still reveal students who lack confidence in delivery. I’ve seen students in tears of frustration and fear that their presentation “won’t be good enough”.
This makes my blood boil!
Secondary and Tertiary students may be fortunate to see, before their allotted presentation, the marking schedule against which they will be assessed.
It doesn’t always reduce the stress, even though it will show what the student has to do to achieve the ranked grades at an A, B, C, or D level where a C is a minimal pass. (A pass to what?)
Some canny students, aware of their own limitations, aim for a C. The higher the student’s confidence in their topic and their own speaking, the higher passing grade they aim for.
“What do I have to do for a Pass? Oh, only three examples. Okay, I can do that.”
But the assessment is mainly on their knowledge of the topic; their delivery is a minor part of it. And it’s delivery of their knowledge that can present a challenge when creating that speech or slide-show. A lack of confidence in their speaking ability is one thing – a lack of knowledge of their subject matter is another.
Teaching years seven and eight (ages c. eleven to twelve), I often encouraged students to keep in mind that being able to tell what they “knew” was more important than reading notes* from vast quantities of slides. Better a few slides with the student using their own language to explain what they know and understand, than copious slides with reading from the Notes for each.
A student who can readily answer open questions on the topic is advantaged over a student who has to flick back through the slides to then re-read the Notes.
My marking schedule allowed for varying times the presentation took, making no distinction about quantity of content, but the quality of the student’s knowledge of the content.
* I would ask for a printout of the Notes View before the student began.
Better (to me) a three-minute long delivery that reveals the student’s involvement in, his knowledge of, his attitude to further learning about the topic, than an eight-minute long delivery that simply regurgitates what is written.
For second and tertiary students, there are You Tube videos on how to present your understanding of your topic – and my recommendation, to any students; is to watch and listen to at least two different “how to” videos.
I also recommend using the search engine Google rather than, say, DuckDuckGo. These two reveal different results, and although DuckDuckGo offers more privacy, Google seems more effective in finding appropriate results.
Two examples of effective web pages of information on these topics are as follows:
What is the Difference Between a Speech, a Presentation, a Lecture and a Talk? by Fabien Delorme on Jun 1, 2019
From Presenting to Lecturing: Adapting Material for Classroom Delivery, for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, used by the University of Waikato
Note: I will not be discussing Lecturing. This link will serve to assist those readers intending to become specialists in their subject through tertiary study.