Work in progress presentations: a better use of audience time than presentations of the final product?

I ask my students to give presentations a little over half way through the project, believing that these are more helpful to the development of a project than presentations of the final product.  Such presentations must necessarily be on work-in-progress, and so my instructions ask them “to indicate where additional research is needed and where you think it might lead you.”   These instructions continue as follows:

When you prepare to give a presentations (e.g., by freewriting on your desired impact, designing visual aids, etc.), when you hear yourselves speak your presentations, and when you get feedback, it usually leads to self-clarification of the overall argument underlying your research and the eventual written reports. This, in turn, influences your research priorities for the time remaining.

The Work-in-Progress Presentation is your first opportunity to “GOSP” your audience—Grab the audience’s attention; Orient them to the direction of movement in your project, and lay out the Steps that will lead your audience to the Position you want them to appreciate.  Note that the P in GOSP may for a work-in-progress presentation extend to include your Plans to find out what more you need to.

In general, think of the talk less in terms of performing to the public and more in terms of getting the help you need from others to make further progress.

In that spirit, make sure you allow time to present the leading edge of your work. That means being brief on getting the listeners up to steam about the aspects of your project that are firmly in place at this stage.

If there is not time for extensive discussion, each member of the audience should write a note to the presenter to provide appreciations, suggestions, questions, contacts, and references.  (Slips of paper from each member of the audience using a plus-delta feedback format work well.)

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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