teaching hack: student moderators for in-class presentations

This semester I taught a PhD seminar course on Public Sector Operations Research. You can read about it here on our class blog and here on Punk Rock OR.

The students presented three research papers over the course of the semester. I created a schedule for the student speakers, and I matched each student with another student who served as the moderator. The moderator’s job was to introduce the speaker and to field questions after the talk like in department colloquiums. If there are no questions following a talk, the moderator should be ready to kick things off with a question or two.

Students often follow my lead and wait for me to ask the first question. Sometimes when a presentation ends I am too busy jotting down notes on my grading sheet to kick of the questions. Awkward silence follows. My intent was to get the students more engaged in the other presentations and to encourage them to demonstrate leadership in the classroom without assigning extra work. I would say that it worked very well. Following each presentation I had at least one student ready to ask insightful questions, which often led to other students asking interesting follow up questions. The students took ownership in the Q&A session following each presentation.

My favorite part was the unexpected consequences. I did not envision students stepping up to introduce their peers. One introduction was really sweet. I think we all got a little choked up when one student introduced her peer as a “good researcher and a great friend.”



3 responses to “teaching hack: student moderators for in-class presentations

  • ramiro

    congrats from brasil

    muito obrigado por compartilhar suas experiências

  • Rafael

    very interesting indeed. I would like to participe in a seminar course like that.

  • Laura Albert McLay

    One of my students blogged about moderators:

    Presentations work a lot better when you have a moderator. I got to do something this semester I’ve never done before: moderate someone’s presentation. Not only was it fun, it encouraged me to read the paper (or at least the slides) before watching the presentation and really think about what made sense and what didn’t, because it was my job to come up with several questions for the person I was moderating. I think it’s a great idea to have assigned student moderators and if I teach a class someday I’ll definitely have my students moderate for each other.

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