Supporting Students with Individual Conferences

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ATISSA BANUAZIZI: When students give their oral exams, they are presenting the results of their experiment to their faculty member, their professor for that section, and typically also for the TA. And so they have an audience of about two people. Not very big.

And in that oral exam, they give the presentation pretty much straight without interruption. Then they get a Q&A session from the professor and the TA. And then they may also typically get a lot of immediate feedback from the professor about how well it went and some suggestions for how to do better next time. In the moment, it can be hard for them to process all of that.

Some little time following that they will make an appointment with me and we will sit down and watch the digital video that was produced when they gave their talk. And typically on another monitor, we will have the actual slides that they use to give the presentation so we can really sync that up. This gives them the opportunity to look at their video in a more objective way. It's not immediately afterwards, they've had some time to think and process.

They have a chance to think about the comments of their instructor through this new lens, of somebody who's actually watching their own work. We ask them to reflect on sort of what their experience was in the moment. And then we sit down and watch the video. And we'll typically stop and sort of debrief a little bit when we notice things. And I'll ask them to talk about what they notice and I'll tell them what I notice.

And then when we're done watching the video, we might go over some of the individual slides in some more detail. And then we brainstorm together about things that they would want to focus on for next time, particular issues that they might have had, ways that they can strategize about improving that for the next round of presentations. So this all happens after the first ungraded oral exam on one of their practice experiments. But the process of giving the oral exams continues throughout the semester.

And some of them choose to meet optionally with me before their presentations if they want to do a dry run or rehearsal. Some of them will choose to meet with me immediately afterwards. But the next thing that's actually built into the schedule comes much closer to the end of the semester. At this point, they've given their three oral exams. And they get to choose their favorite one to present for a larger audience.

And once they've made that choice, they meet with me and we do pretty much the same thing, we look at the video, we look at the slides. Only this time, it's with an eye towards revising it for public consumption and a bigger audience.

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