Guidelines for Student Presentations

The primary aim of student presentations for discussion sections is to launch an engaging and fruitful discussion, not to summarize or lead the discussion. The guidelines will differ depending on the course, so you should go to the individual course web site, but in general:

1. Time 5-7 minutes.

2. Content. Raise one or two critical questions for discussion. You do not have to touch on all of the readings for that week. If there are several selections, you may choose freely what you wish to discuss. You should observe the following points: a) Why is the point/idea you have chosen for discussion important for understanding the significance of the work(s) in question? b) If this point is related to other issues related to the reading, then how are they related? c) What question do you have? These reflections should help to launch the discussion. They might suggest disagreement with the author, lack of clarity (either on the part of the reader or the author), or some internal inconsistency in the author's ideas (apparent or real).

You should ask about points that are unclear to you. The presentation is not a test of your mastery of the material, and there will be many other students who do not understand parts of the reading. For example, you might say, "The Vedas speak of ultimate reality in both personal (divine) terms and impersonal (philosophical) terms. Is this merely a contradiction, or is there more to this dual description?"

3. Handout. Prepare a one-page handout for your presentation and make enough copies for everyone in your discussion section. Your handout should contain: 1) The one question you wish to discuss and 2) one to three appropriate quotations from the readings for that week that help the class examine your question/issue. You need not quote long paragraphs; it is sufficient just to quote 2-3 relevant sentences.

4. Style. Be sure to speak clearly and slowly enough so that everyone can understand. Take the time to explain your points fully. References to specific textual passages and page numbers are essential to ground the discussion. Illustrations and analogies can also be helpful in conveying your ideas. Diagrams can also be effective aids although they are not required. You may remain seated, stand, or use the chalk board for your presentation.

5. Grading. The presentation is usually 10 percent of your grade. Your presentation will be graded on three areas: 1) Insight. Have you chosen good passages or ideas to help the class examine and understand the readings? Do you raise a question/issue that leads to fruitful discussion. 2) Preparation. Does your presentation show that you have considered the readings and the points you present carefully? 3) Style. Do you speak clearly, explain fully, and provide textual references? Do you make eye contact to make sure that the class is following what you are saying.